Tag Archives: Destination Marketing

10 Trends in Destination & Tourism Marketing

10 Trends in Tourism Marketing for Destinations

Having been in the tourism industry for well over 25 years and having taught tourism marketing classes I find myself in a position to be able to identify and comment on trends in tourism marketing with the thought that it might help smaller attractions and in particular museum or other cultural attractions or even destinations.  Staying ahead of the trends for planning purposes is the key to long term tourism success for a destination.

This blog entry takes this background and marries it to the fact that I have been planning road trips in our recently purchased RV and studying destinations and tourism marketing materials in the process.  While there certainly are more trends than what is contained in this article, this is a start and is based on an in-depth examination of some random states’ visitors guides in the northeastern United States.

There are some common denominators in tourism marketing throughout the United States and some emerging, as well as established, trends that bear looking at.  Let’s look at what is really for sale in some of America’s top tourist’s visitors guides (in no particular order):

1. Discovery – If you read destination visitor’s guides you would soon figure out that we humans enjoy discovery.  And most people like discovering things that have been discovered before them and curated to the point that they know they, too, would enjoy discovering it despite the fact that it has been already discovered.  The word “discover” appears often in tourism marketing.  A lot of destinations promote themselves under the headline of “Discover (fill in the destination).”  Everyone wants to be a Columbus but no one wants to discover something that isn’t worth discovering so it helps when the tourism product is curated or validated by someone or a group of people.

Discover Monadnock in New Hampshire invites you, along with many destinations, to "discover" it.

Discover Monadnock in New Hampshire invites you, along with many destinations, to “discover” it.

Hardly a state exists where you can’t find an image promoting it without it being paired with the word “discover,” whether it is discovering history or the arts or the entire state.   This is probably more ubiquitous than it is a trend but it filtering down to a lot of other tourism product than just state-wide tourism promotion.

2. Experience – Everyone wants an experience.  No one just wants to go somewhere.  It isn’t enough that you have seen a destination anymore, you have to experience it (after you discover it, of course).  Many destinations use “Experience (fill in the destination)” and this has been a growing trend following the “Visit (fill in the destination)” craze.  From attractions and restaurants to hotels and entire destinations, visitors are encouraged to “experience” the tourism product.   We have long since known that the experience, the intangible product, is actually what is being sold after all.  It is only fairly recently that this is how destinations are marketing themselves.

Many destinations want you to "experience" them.  This one for New Hampshire invites you in for just such an experience.

Many destinations want you to “experience” them. This one for New Hampshire invites you in for just such an experience.

3. Fun – Who doesn’t want to have fun?  No one.  This could be also called Participate but the end result is still fun.  Some destinations package a lot of fun experiences and position on fun.  There are some destinations in New Jersey where the word is everywhere.  And rightfully so, their tourism product is fun – from watching salt water taffy being made to arcade games on a boardwalk to jumping in the waves in the Ocean.  There’s also water parks, amusement parks, gaming centers and more in these types of destinations.  It also isn’t unusual to find a Ripley’s in these types of destinations and to find the destination marketing to families and using words such as tradition in their copy.

Coastal Virginia appears to be all about "fun" in this ad inviting you to have fun in only a few footsteps.

Coastal Virginia appears to be all about “fun” in this ad inviting you to have fun in only a few footsteps.

If your attraction or destination was so inclined you could, like others, simply say “Experience the Fun at … ” or “Discover the Fun at …”  And, of course, it has been done and continues as a trend in state visitor guides.

3. Local – This speaks to the unique product that the tourist will consume – a local experience that can’t be experienced anywhere else.  Every town now has shops, restaurants and other things that are unique.  This local and authentic tourist experience is something that continues to grow in popularity.  This could be something like a chocolatier, a craft beer brewery, a candle or soap shop, a local farmers market, or a strip of independently owned shops in a town center.  While the old style urban renewal projects which were so popular years ago included things like The Gap or Ann Taylor and a national or regional restaurant anchor or two along with some shops selling kites, t-shirts and hats was once the thing visitors sought out, they have done those and are looking for a more local and authentic experience.

This editorial feature focuses on the thirty local restaurants in downtown Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

This editorial feature focuses on the thirty local restaurants in downtown Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

If you just search for images on the web under “shop local” or “buy local” you will find no shortage of graphics used in social media promoting the local movement.  It has gained the greatest ground in places like Portland, Oregon, Ashville, N.C. and St. Petersburg, Florida.  While it may have started as a movement to protect mom and pop shops, main streets, local farmers and artists, it serves as a terrific tool in promoting tourism.  Few destinations promote their chain supermarket with produce from South America after all.

In New Hampshire, eating local is one of the features of tourism promotion.

In New Hampshire, eating local is one of the features of tourism promotion.

4. Beer and Wine with Locality – There once was a time when most towns in the northeast had their own breweries.  Over time, many of them closed.  That trend has completely reversed itself.  It now seems that there isn’t a destination that doesn’t have a craft beer maker or brewery in it with larger cities having entire trails of these breweries.  Something that largely is credited to Portland, Oregon, now has become pretty mainstream and is still gaining momentum.  Many destinations continue to promote the microbrews and the brewery experience to visitors.

The cover of the New Jersey visitor's guide focuses on wine with its Grape Escape headline.

The cover of the New Jersey visitor’s guide focuses on wine with its Grape Escape headline.

Wineries have become equally popular starting in Napa Valley and now in destinations such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Even Florida has wineries.  These all provide an authentic local experience and give the visitor something to buy to take back home that isn’t the tacky souvenir of days gone by.

At some point every town will have a craft beer brewery or a winery and these will diminish as a tourist draw as most tourism products have in the past but it will be some time before this happens.  As soon as the market expects a destination to have a product, it becomes no longer as important to the tourism product mix.  Most recently (in the past dozen or so years) IMAX theatres were once important to the tourism mix but are now not as significant in making a destination unique as they are in so many markets.

5. Outdoors – As people look for more experiential travel experiences, many destinations are including outdoor activities such as canoeing and kayaking as well as golf as part of their tourism mix.  There are hiking and biking opportunities in many destinations that often get overlooked as part of the tourist experience.  More and more destinations appear to be showing this as part of its nature package.  Even destinations where the natural environment isn’t the most suited to outdoor activity can find something to attract visitors interested in the outdoors.  And this is happening in even the most urbanized of destinations such as the High Line in New York City.  This plays to the general trend toward better health globally and will continue to be a trend in tourism marketing.

This ad for Clarion, Pennsylvania not only is about experiencing the destination but it is focused on the outdoors and the destination being known as "River Country."

This ad for Clarion, Pennsylvania not only is about experiencing the destination but it is focused on the outdoors and the destination being known as “River Country.”

6. Open All Year – Many destinations are known for a particular season.  Ski resorts in particular have done a good job over the years of spreading out their tourists to year-round with a variety of tourism products such as historical towns, outdoor activities and more.  Summer destinations, such as New Jersey or other states known for their beaches, promote year-round activities.  The State of New York even has covers on its visitors guide to coincide with the season offering not only a wealth of summer activities but specialty seasonal tourism offerings as well.

A very well done ad for Princeton, New Jersey makes it clear the destination is not just a single season destination.

A very well done ad for Princeton, New Jersey makes it clear the destination is not just a single season destination.

A number of states use, or have used, the Four Seasons of Fun concept including New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin.  There are variations on the theme, but destinations want consumers to know they are not just seasonal destinations anymore.  Attractions in Florida have long focused on increasing visitors during typical off-season times such as Fall.  This is why Epcot does the annual Food & Wine Festival and the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and Busch Gardens do a special Halloween event.  With more tourism product, the state then has something more to offer the consumer.

7. More than Just What We’re Famous For – Many destinations are known for one thing or another for the most part.  Take beach destinations, for example.  It isn’t uncommon to see these promoted now as “more than just a beach.”  Even Daytona Beach has a small historical downtown that is interesting and not something most people seek out.  Therefore, the visitor “discovers” the small treasure.

The Jersey Shore is naturally more than just the shore.

The Jersey Shore is naturally more than just the shore.

While being more than just a beach destination is becoming popular, so would becoming more than just a ski destination.  And this would be true of major tourist attractions as well.  No one goes to Niagara Falls and expects to do nothing but look at the falls.  But all those other things do help entice someone who might think there isn’t anything else there.

8. Itineraries – So often visitors don’t have the time to do research for a road trip and are looking for something packaged up but yet provides a free and independent travel experience.  The State of Maryland, among others, has a great booklet promoting its byways.

These are not very linear like some but it is comprehensive and gives you a good idea of what to experience along the way and based on your interests you can select your route.  Some regions and states also focus on single routes – such as Route 66, the National Road, PA Route 6 or even the less heard of Pennsylvania Route 422 through four counties which is advertised as a coop in that state’s visitor’s guide.

Maryland even publishes a separate guide for its scenic highways and byways with plenty of suggested itineraries.

Maryland even publishes a separate guide for its scenic highways and byways with plenty of suggested itineraries.

This is something that isn’t terribly new.  In Florida, many years ago, entire routes produced brochures for tourist racks on certain routes through the state and often destinations provided “one day trip” offers using the core destination as a base.   The Orange Blossom Trail through Florida to points in the mid-west was a popular marketing tool in the mid 20th century.

9. Main Street – Often you will see America’s historic town centers promoted in tourism materials.  The angles range and may include any or even all of the following: historical, cultural, food, local, shopping, ghosts or others.  The national Main Street program has been successful in helping small towns not only survive but thrive and it has been successful in larger city’s neighborhoods as well.

These Main Streets are often unique, obviously local, usually not filled with chains you can find anywhere and often contain some element of arts and culture and frequently have local shops and restaurants to attract residents.   Some states do a very good job of promoting these unique destinations.  Virginia has a section on them in its visitors guide that is very well done.

Virginia devotes editorial coverage to towns with historic main streets.

Virginia devotes editorial coverage to towns with historic main streets.

Even in places that you don’t think of for main street activities, we’ve found delightful and walkable main streets even if they aren’t as charming as most.  The point is, they are different than any other and even in some small Texas towns we’ve found fascinating main streets in towns and usually a local restaurant or shop worth visiting if just while driving through.

10. Art – Once tourism and the arts strictly translated to museums and a passive visit to one of them to look at art.    Museums became more experiential over the years and today it is rare that you enter a museum and passively observe art without some type of “experience.”  Hands-on museums have become popular and art museums have incorporated more participatory elements in their exhibits and exhibitions.

Many towns in the U.S. have museums whether they are historical museums, historic houses, art museums, children’s museums, science museums or a zoo or aquarium.  Destination marketers are now figuring out how to set their destinations apart from others.  And often the fact that there is an art museum isn’t sufficient enough.  It must be unique.

In the New Hampshire visitor's guide, there are special arts-focused events such as this one that occurs just once a year.

In the New Hampshire visitor’s guide, there are special arts-focused events such as this one that occurs just once a year.

Once again, my hometown of St. Petersburg serves as an example.  The Salvador Dali Museum opened there in 1982 and is a unique asset to the tourism product.  A collection of works by Dale Chihuly also opened in 2010 further providing a unique museum experience.  But what is beginning to happen is that visitors are seeking out more experiential arts experiences such as touring a local pottery, visiting an artists collective gallery featuring works by local artists, seeing artist studios or participating in local art or gallery walks.  They are seeking out more authentic local experiences.  This is an up and coming trend that is just beginning to gain momentum in some destinations.

This is an incredible ad for Lancaster, Pennsylvania that actually appears in a county tourism guide, not the state guide, but it clearly shows off several trends including the arts and the local concept quite well.

This is an incredible ad for Lancaster, Pennsylvania that actually appears in a county tourism guide, not the state guide, but it clearly shows off several trends including the arts and the local concept quite well.

What isn’t on this list might be a bit surprising.  Professional sports are not mentioned often at all in tourism promotion by state agencies.  You can draw your own conclusions to this observation.

What is bubbling up into the top ten?  

Music and concerts.  Some destinations have captured this market quite well – primarily in the Country and Western Belt though places like Seattle and Austin do quite well with it too.  Most destinations don’t position on music and don’t have enough focus on indoor and outdoor music festivals and concerts because generally all there is to promote is the venue.  The exceptions would be an annual festival – whether it is country, jazz, blues, or another genre that can be promoted year-round.  But a lively music scene that exists year-round would be of interest to tourists.

Another trend that will bubble up is that of gastronomy.  Though this is closely tied to the Local concept, it will become more and more important to a destination.  More and more American towns and cities have developed restaurant/cafe districts that have very good restaurants – and there is the interest to experience local things which this goes well with especially if the town’s restaurant row is on the Main Street which is historic in nature.

Downtown Carlisle, Pennsylvania plays off the local and gastronomy trends mentioned in this editorial that makes anyone who is hungry for something unique want to visit it - and who isn't looking for something like that?

Downtown Carlisle, Pennsylvania plays off the local and gastronomy trends mentioned in this editorial that makes anyone who is hungry for something unique want to visit it – and who isn’t looking for something like that?

Bike riding is another trend that will continue to rise as more bike rental opportunities or bike share programs come about.  It fits mostly in the Outdoor section but is sufficiently important enough to stand on its own.  This, combined with an increasingly friendly attitude by local governments regarding bicyclists in the form of bike lanes and trails will be another product that destinations will rely on to attract more visitors.  Maine is one state that incorporates the biking attraction into its state tourism promotion.

The Mountain Creek Bike Park in Vernon, NJ is well positioned in the New Jersey guide and rightfully so.

The Mountain Creek Bike Park in Vernon, NJ is well positioned in the New Jersey guide and rightfully so.

Unique Festivals and Events is something that people are travelling for based on their particular interests.  More and more of these are drawing greater numbers of visitors if the product is right and well-promoted.  I’m not talking about a Santa Parade, though that does draw visitors from around a town, but something unusual that a visitor would have to travel to in order to experience it.  The more unusual, the further away people would be willing to come from for it.  Some examples of unusual festivals might include Tatoofest in Tampa, the Burning Man Festival in Nevada or the Bald is Beautiful Convention in North Carolina.

This ad for the Maryland Wine Festival is another example of how events are working to draw tourists for niche interests.

This ad for the Maryland Wine Festival is another example of how events are working to draw tourists for niche interests.

You can take these ideas and trends and apply them to your own destination marketing plans.  If your “destination” is another attraction or perhaps a small historic town or even a district within a larger city, there are ideas here to help you on the branding and ultimately, the marketing, of your destination.

Before ending, there is one ad that stood out as possibly the worst ad in any of the state visitor’s guides that I reviewed.  So much is wrong with it from the graphics to the fact that it is for a one-day event and is placed (in a full page) in an annual guide.  In fact, it arrived long after the event was over.

Rutgers Day in New Jersey takes place on one day and yet occupies a full page in the annual New Jersey publication.  My guess is that government dollars funded the ad and somewhere there is an intern who designed it.

Rutgers Day in New Jersey takes place on one day and yet occupies a full page in the annual New Jersey publication. My guess is that government dollars funded the ad and somewhere there is an intern who designed it.

So there you have it.  Ten trends in tourism destination marketing from one person’s observations.  Perhaps this information can help you with your attraction or museum.  I’ve been to so many small towns in America that are just gems of destinations that I never knew about until visiting them.  Hopefully some of them can become more tourism oriented to help their local economies.  Some of these towns that I’ve traveled through, I wished that I could have stopped and talked to someone about how to make them more tourist friendly or how to package them to create a more interesting story to entice tourists to visit.  This is my way of stopping and trying to help.  Thank you for reading this far and hope it was helpful or at least somewhat interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Art, Artists, Tourism and Florida

A Brief History of the Selling of Art in Florida

Florida has somewhat matured over the years, especially in its attraction of artists to the state who come here for the relatively inexpensive cost of living and the sunshine.  It is also attractive because inexpensive housing and a fairly good base of art collectors come through the state.

The earliest art sold in Florida was not to Floridians.  It was to tourists. Artists such as Martin Johnson Heade or Frank Shapleigh rented studios at the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine and these artists would paint and sell their wares to the wealthy tourists from up north.  Their cluster of studios became somewhat of a cultural attraction to the wealthy patrons staying at the hotel.  This having happened only over 120 years ago as the hotel opened in 1889.

The works were created generally as souvenirs for the wealthy and would typically be scenes that included flora and fauna typical of Florida or perhaps street scenes as was the case with St. Augustine.  Sunsets, steamers and flowering plants were common themes.  This was the start of the art industry in Florida.

Today, while we have certainly transitioned from the old itinerary using steamers and stagecoach, the fundamentals haven’t changed all that much.  Tourists still come in to Florida and still buy art and take it home with them.  While we don’t know for sure what percentage of art is bought by what are now Floridians, we do know that tourism makes up a significant, if not a majority, share of this as the two major art centers of Florida today – St. Petersburg and Miami – have become tourist destinations in the past century and continue with their international draw today.

But back to the 1880s for a moment, as St. Petersburg and Miami didn’t yet exist as incorporated towns in Florida, this was at a time when the railway ran as far south as Jacksonville and steamers plied the St. Johns River. The typical visitor’s itinerary consisted of a trip to Jacksonville, the largest city in the state, St. Augustine for its history, a steamer down the St. Johns River and another down the Ocklawaha.  There were variations on this itinerary and stage coaches were used to shuttle people from the ports where the steamers would call in to small towns such as Gainesville and Ocala.

The city of Jacksonville has changed dramatically since it was the first transportation hub of Florida tourists in the 1880s.

The city of Jacksonville has changed dramatically since it was the first transportation hub of Florida tourists in the 1880s.

Many of these early tourists were considered naturalists as they had an interest in nature.  There was, in fact, little else in Florida at the time.  While most paintings were nature scenes and landscapes, there were details of some of the flowers of Florida in some of these early paintings.

But the artist colony was focused in St. Augustine as the tourist center of the state was located there.  Tourism was in this case acting as the distribution channel for art.   It isn’t very dissimilar to some of the earliest cultural attractions in the state of Florida.  They relied on tourists to support them as the residents of the state were typically unable, for the most part, to support larger cultural attractions that primarily consisted of museums.

In the industrialized north, philanthropists funded museums and supported artists.  There was no tradition of this in the agrarian south and the model of support became something between fractured philanthropy and cultural tourism from the North.  The state’s earliest “museums” were designed to attract tourists.  These were in Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

The Vedder Museum in St. Augustine.  Photo courtesy State Archives of Florida.

The Vedder Museum in St. Augustine. Photo courtesy State Archives of Florida.

Slowly, artists began to locate in areas outside of St. Augustine.  St. Petersburg probably got the earliest start with artists, or visitors who took an interest in the arts, having had an arts club formed in 1917, ten years before the Florida Federation of Art was formed and well before the 1924 founding of the local arts club in St. Augustine.  Earliest museums in the state included the Ringling in Sarasota and the Norton in Palm Beach.  Art was starting to diversify as a commodity in Florida.   In the decades that followed the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg was soon exporting art in the form of reproduction posters throughout the world.

Today we have significant colonies of artists still in St. Augustine as well as Key West, Miami and St. Petersburg.  There are other clusters of artists throughout the state in other towns and cities of course and many towns now have an arts district.

Marketing Art and Tourism in Florida

The point of this article is to consider what is the next step in the maturation of the arts industry in Florida.  If you look at other similar destinations that have art as a common denominator, you’ll find a movement and an eager tourism industry embracing the “local” feel to the area in places such as Ashville, North Carolina, Richmond, Virginia and Provincetown, Massachusetts.   In much older destinations such as Paris or Venice, albeit far larger cities, the arts scene has flourished to include museums, cafes, galleries and artist enclaves.  In St. Petersburg, my hometown, a very active group called “Keep St. Pete Local” is heavily involved in maintaining the local character of the city that keeps it well positioned as distinct from destinations where a more chain style of infrastructure exists.

One of the arts districts in St. Petersburg, the Central Arts District, has links to the other districts with a trolley service.

One of the arts districts in St. Petersburg, the Central Arts District, has links to the other districts with a trolley service.

Miami and St. Petersburg are both in a unique position to be able to further develop their arts industries through tourism.  Art Basel in Miami continues to be a strong annual arts-related event that attracts tourists in great concentrated numbers.  St. Petersburg continues to draw cultural tourists year-round in what is developing as an arts fair that happens throughout the year and in multiple arts districts throughout the city.

While Miami has matured to include very high end art, St. Petersburg’s niche has been in accessible art for a much wider audience.   The “authentic” experience that a certain number of tourists are now looking for is readily accessible in St. Petersburg and in parts of Miami.  The Wynwood Arts District is rapidly maturing in Miami and several districts have emerged in St. Petersburg that allows the visitor a more authentic experience that isn’t created, such as was the artists studios at the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine or the concentration of museums in some cities.

And while it is always up to the artist to sell his or her art, there are quickly becoming areas in the state that are more conducive to this.  And as always in Florida, it is seasonal.  It is up to the state’s tourism marketing organization and the respective county tourist development councils and convention and visitors bureaus to use the arts districts to attract more like-minded tourists and to direct those who are possibly secondarily interested in the arts to these districts.

Second Saturday Art Walks in St. Petersburg have become increasingly popular with tourists and residents.  Many other tourist destinations use this concept to promote the arts.

Second Saturday Art Walks in St. Petersburg have become increasingly popular with tourists and residents. Many other tourist destinations use this concept to promote the arts.

Where Henry Flagler knew that there was a demand and clustered artists around a number of studios in the back of the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, our present day promoters of tourism, myself included, must make it easy for our visitors to find the artists and their works.

Art galleries, shows, festivals, arts centers, artist cooperatives, pop up exhibitions, and artist studios have all become part of the tourist experience in some parts of Florida.  To succeed in attracting more tourists who are prone to not only visit cultural attractions, buy locally-produced art we must target those tourists and let them know what the experience of visiting may include and that is art.  There are thousands of tourists that come through Florida’s cruise ports and a percentage of them all buy prints of art on cruise ships during art auctions.  They could easily be buying original pieces from Florida artists.

Many cities and towns in Florida have arts centers including Delray Beach.

Many cities and towns in Florida have arts centers including Delray Beach.

We must target the people who are most likely to buy art and spend time in our destinations.  Today, it is even more easy to focus on this with the demographic and psychographic information available combined with the myriad of distribution channels to reach these people.  For example, a number of articles have appeared recently speaking to the growing and flourishing arts scene in St. Petersburg.  These writers likely were reached through Twitter, blogs, websites and Facebook postings in some way.  Their articles then further reach yet more people and eventually a reputation as an arts center develops amongst those who are inclined to visit arts destinations.  Advertising messages also can be directed to these audiences and those responsible for marketing to visitors have access to make this happen.

It is important to look at the history of arts and tourism marketing to be able to understand how to move forward.  The essence of tourism marketing vis-a-vis the arts is to convince people to visit and buy art.  This is done through reaching those most likely to visit with your message.  Any destination can do this and with the right resources, can do it better than it is doing presently.

How St. Petersburg became the cultural center of the west coast of Florida – Part 4

The Product and Who Was Promoting It

As previously mentioned, the product has been a mix of cultural facilities: visual and performing, antiques shops and malls, bookstores, unique neighborhoods, city parks along the waterfront and the events that took place there, along with art galleries and restaurants.

The opening of the then Stouffer Vinoy Resort in 1992, refurbished by Fred Guest for just over $90 million, contributed significantly to the city’s image. Finally, the city had a resort that complemented its museums. This was at a time that the failed retail and entertainment concept known as Bay Plaza was becoming apparent.
It was also in 1992 that a group of people formed a group called Common Ground that promoted downtown St. Petersburg and held monthly street parties along Central Avenue. This group of marketing-oriented professionals also spent social time together and the friendships formed helped speed along the work to get behind marketing downtown St. Petersburg as a cultural destination.  I had mentioned this in more detail in Part 2.

With improving neighborhoods, real estate agents became involved in the process as they marketed homes in the downtown neighborhoods, all within close proximity of the cultural facilities mentioned before.

In 1996 a small group of people, coordinated by the Downtown Partnership with Marty Normile and Eric Carlson, formed to discuss downtown transportation. After many meetings, the City of St. Petersburg, after great involvement by Anita Treiser, agreed to donate to a new non-profit group one of the former trolleys that ran in operation at The Pier. The group included the museums, two hotels, the downtown merchants association and the Pier.  Here is the first brochure and timetable for the Looper – downtown St. Petersburg’s trolley.

FAM 017

A route was developed and each of the stakeholders made a contribution to the trolley. Plans were made to sell advertising. Professionals who had jobs to promote their own facilities did all this. I remember one hot day climbing over seats at Carlisle Ford with David Blackman and Mary Lee Hanley measuring spaces that could be used to sell advertising to help support the trolley, which we named The Looper.

wayne terri david

Wayne Atherholt of the Dali Museum, Terri Garnhart of the Museum of History and David Blackman of Great Explorations all cooperated regularly in jointly promoting the museums. This picture is circa 1993.

We managed to contract with a gambling ship which operated shuttle buses to handle the daily driving and maintenance. Unfortunately on the first day of operation the Looper had major engine problems because the oil was low. Our first major setback had just occurred. Undaunted we continued with the assistance of the city and the stakeholders and today the Looper is still in operation connecting the major cultural facilities, lodging establishments, entertainment complexes, antiques malls and all the downtown galleries, restaurants and retail shops. Of course, office workers and tourists became the target audience for using the system.

An early article on the Looper trolley appeared in the St. Petersburg Times.

An early article on the Looper trolley appeared in the St. Petersburg Times.

At about this time the Welcome Guide Map and its owners, Jim Wray and Chuck Wray, got involved as a commercial operation to promote St. Petersburg with a map specifically aimed at the downtown to help position the area as a cultural destination. Florida Suncoast Tourism Promotions, under the leadership of Drake Decker, also helped in many ways by distributing cooperative materials for the cultural attractions such as Museum Month.  I also recall Darlene Kole putting together a coop ad for us in SEE Magazine.

A VIP card included admission to four downtown museums and was sold through the Vinoy and AAA.  An ad that appeared in SEE Magazine promoting the museums.  An insert into key zip codes through Val-Pak promoted four downtown museums.  And finally, a colorful poster was produced and made available to area hotels and businesses to promote the museums of St. Petersburg.

A VIP card included admission to four downtown museums and was sold through the Vinoy and AAA. An ad that appeared in SEE Magazine promoting the museums. An insert into key zip codes through Val-Pak promoted four downtown museums. And finally, a colorful poster was produced and made available to area hotels and businesses to promote the museums of St. Petersburg.

Cooperative Marketing of the Product

Much of the cooperative marketing has been mentioned in the prior pages; however, it cannot go unsaid that these efforts included many low-cost techniques: maps, press releases, joint efforts, group efforts, events, neighborhood parties, happy hours, brochures, posters, and a great spirit among those involved helped make the hard work a lot of pleasure.

Mayor David Fischer held visioning sessions in the mid 1990s that further solidified what the marketing people already knew; downtown St. Petersburg indeed was the center for the arts in the Tampa Bay area. It wasn’t until the travel editor Gerry Volgenau from The Detroit Free Press visited that we finally got someone who could see our vision and write about it.

The fact was, our common vision had become a reality. At the time the article was published, it featured the headline “Florida’s Culture Coast” (reprinted on page 29) with a dateline of St. Petersburg. It was finally recognized that St. Petersburg had become the arts center of the West Coast of Florida. This was the first time, in 1996, that we finally got some major coverage of what we had been working so hard to achieve — recognition that the arts and culture were transforming the city, contributing to its economic success, and making downtown St. Petersburg a lively and exciting place.

The story that finally broke for downtown St. Petersburg being recognized as the cultural center of the west coast of Florida.

The story that finally broke for downtown St. Petersburg being recognized as the cultural center of the west coast of Florida.

Museum Month continued despite storms and even an oil spill that sent visitors packing away. The First Night organization helped start the event in St. Petersburg under the leadership of Pat Mason and Jim Durning.  This was another event that took many of the arts organizations under an umbrella and packaged them to show a critical mass of arts and culture.  It most recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in St. Petersburg.

Another major turning point for the city took place during the run of the Titanic exhibition, which drew over 830,000 visitors to downtown St. Petersburg.  The brochure promoting the exhibition also included wording on the other cultural attractions of downtown and briefly went under the branding of the QuARTer.   A group of developers were visiting the city to consider a large entertainment complex near the museum on vacant land used to park school and tour buses. A line extended outside the museum building as people waited to buy tickets for the first available tour – and it was at night.

The Florida International Museum received coverage all over the world for its record-breaking Titanic exhibition that spanned 27,000 square feet and 830,000 visitors in six months.  All group tour operators, wholesalers and travel media received this piece on the destination that focused on downtown St. Petersburg's arts and cultural appeal.

The Florida International Museum received coverage all over the world for its record-breaking Titanic exhibition that spanned 27,000 square feet and 830,000 visitors in six months. All group tour operators, wholesalers and travel media received this piece on the destination that focused on downtown St. Petersburg’s arts and cultural appeal.

The hardest selling point for the developers was whether anyone was going to go downtown St. Petersburg to a movie or restaurant at night. They took one look at the line around the Florida International Museum and the rest is now history. Baywalk, an entertainment complex featuring multi-screen cinemas, retails shops, restaurants and nightclubs continues to be successful — and a cultural institution was primarily responsible for convincing them to give St. Petersburg a try.

Conclusion

Each city and town in Florida, or across the world for that matter, can benefit from some of the lessons that St. Petersburg learned. Many of the people involved in the early days of transforming this city are now scattered around the country.  Each of them were creative and passionate people who were enjoyable to be around and had positive attitudes.  It wasn’t something borne of money or power, changing St. Petersburg was borne from the spirit of so many dedicated individuals whose passion was not profit but challenge.

The critical key, in my opinion, to creating a common goal was to create an atmosphere that was conducive to these creative people to gather, have fun, work hard and work together. Downtown St. Petersburg became such a place with its many features described in this brief overview of how the city became a cultural destination.

A creative culture was born that exists today making St. Petersburg the cultural center of the west coast of Florida now with multiple unique arts districts, including Beach Drive with its concentration of museums, the Central Arts District with its galleries, arts retail, arts education and artist studios, the Grand Central District with multiple arts facilities including commercial arts education facilities and the Warehouse Arts District south of Grand Central that features the largest working pottery in the southeast in an old freight railway station plus single artists studios in old warehouse space.

Today St. Petersburg is without a doubt the cultural center of the west coast of Florida and could very easily be argued to be the cultural center of the state.

How St. Petersburg became the cultural center of the west coast of Florida – Part 2

A Cultural Destination takes aim

With four museums in downtown St. Petersburg operating in the late 1980s it was critical to help create a destination out of what existed. Even the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) did not include a lot of information about the museums in its promotional material in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, I remember quite clearly being told by then-director of the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council (the precursor to the CVB), Bill Sheeley, who asked me “why on earth would people leave the beaches to visit a museum in downtown St. Petersburg?”  It was shocking to say the least but it was the thought by virtually everyone in the hospitality industry at that time.

A 1998 advertisement in a tourist guide promotes the cultural diversity of downtown St. Petersburg in a cooperative effort among museums and galleries.

A 1998 advertisement in a tourist guide promotes the cultural diversity of downtown St. Petersburg in a cooperative effort among museums and galleries that was coordinated by the museums and iniated by them.  The sales reps and owners of these publications shared our understanding of creating a destination.  Specifically SEE Magazine and Darlene Kole; Chuck and Jim Wray with CJ Publishers and Drake Decker with Florida Suncoast Tourism Promotions.

A lot of work had to be done.  The international significance of the Dali Museum was the sole draw for me in taking the position as the first marketing director.  That those in charge of promoting tourism internationally didn’t recognize the potential was disappointing.  But we soldiered on in our work.

The growth of the international market for Pinellas County in tourism, a change in leadership and the interest in the Salvador Dali Museum’s increasing international tourism figures, led to the CVB being interested in, first, the draw of the Dali Museum, specifically with German visitors, and second, the cultural scene in general in St. Petersburg which was favored by tourists who were looking for a more cultural experience.

The late 1980s also saw a lot of crime and downtown store closings in St. Petersburg which was late in its downtown decline compared to a lot of cities. Understanding that the Dali Museum opened in 1982 and Great Explorations adjacent to it in 1988, it was only natural for the two museums to cooperate to attract visitors to the south side of downtown St. Petersburg. This became the start of cooperative marketing in St. Petersburg.

It was during this time also that the Downtown Core Group – a grass roots organization – started promoting events and shopping plus a group called Common Ground – a group that consisted of the major downtown marketing directors – started the First Fridays events.  The first First Friday was an experiment to see if anyone would stay downtown after 5 PM on a Friday.  I remember pulling beer taps that night with Toni Tassoni from the Pier and others to a crowd of about 100 people.  And that might be on the high side.  We were thrilled.

But as late as 1995, I recall speaking with a friend who was hired to handle marketing and sales for the Florida International Museum. She was from Boston, and asked me when we were speaking about downtown, “where are all the people?” Clementine Brown, who is a pioneer in cultural tourism in Massachusetts, became a dear friend and colleague as we worked toward the common goal of letting people know what downtown St. Petersburg really had to offer but I get ahead of myself by a few years.

Early Cooperative Marketing

There has been cooperative marketing in the cultural attractions for many years across the state of Florida.  There have been attractions associations at local and regional levels whereby attractions cooperated with brochures and certainly at the state level when, in 1949, a group of attractions formed the Florida Attractions Association.  But museums in Florida at that time really were in their infancy and were best represented by the Ringling Museum and its Circus Galleries and the Lightner Museum of Hobbies.  I will write more on the state level for another article.  Back to St. Petersburg and museums in particular.

The first cooperative marketing among the museums, took place in 1990 when friendship struck up between Mary Lee Hanley, director of marketing for Great Explorations, and myself, then director of marketing at the Dali Museum. We both had major announcements and both believed that downtown St. Petersburg had so many of the elements of a great cultural destination but that they really weren’t linked. In early 1990, stationery was created that linked the two facilities as the “Museums of Bayboro,” named for the Bayboro Harbor that both were next to.

One of the earliest pieces of cooperative work between the museums of St. Petersburg was this joint press reception under the banner of The Museums of Bayboro between the Dali Museum and Great Explorations in 1991.

One of the earliest pieces of cooperative work between the museums of St. Petersburg was this joint press reception under the banner of The Museums of Bayboro between the Dali Museum and Great Explorations in 1991.

It more than likely started on a cocktail napkin, but nonetheless, we were off and running with our cooperative marketing and joint press release that included an offer of a media familiarization tour to include the Dali Museum’s new purchase of a major painting that was being unveiled and the announcement of a new exhibition at Great Explorations.

The media mission included a recommendation to “include the Museum of Fine Arts, P. Buckley Moss Gallery, Florida Craftsman Gallery, The Arts Center and The Pier, all within minutes of Bayboro Harbor.” If I recall, these were selected due to their uniqueness in St. Petersburg and their cultural focus.

We were fortunate to have Karen Smith, who was the travel writer for the Fort Myers daily newspaper who produced a nice piece on the openings and St. Petersburg. Our goal was always to promote the museums but to ensure the destination was treated as a cultural one with Smith and the other journalists who attended this press event.

Another cooperative effort, this time under the umbrella of the Chamber of Commerce, was the Artworks! Festival. Organized by a friend, Kathleen Pazourek, this festival in 1991 included some great artwork from Phillip Gary Design, a local design firm whose owners, David Meek and Jeff Papa, were extremely talented graphic artists. The event included the American Stage in the Park Shakespeare series, a Kid’s Art Festival, A celebration of Salvador Dali’s birthday, the Mainsail Art Show, a music concert and Art Express which was a gallery hop of 14 museums and galleries. This festival helped people to understand the large number of cultural attractions and facilities that already existed in St. Petersburg.

Another small, but significant piece, was the creation of a generic pamphlet entitled “Downtown St. Petersburg, The Heart of the Arts in Tampa Bay,” which was produced by the Dali Museum and included other arts organizations along with a map of downtown St. Petersburg. It was printed at no charge by the local Sir Speedy print shop. This became a piece that was included in all the Dali Museum press packets and distributed to travel writers and travel agents as the Dali continued to expand its marketing to become a global entity. This was the first printed piece that included all the museums of St. Petersburg and had distribution beyond the city’s limits.

The Artworks! flyer, as simple as it was, created a focus on the arts through events in downtown St. Petersburg in 1991.  This piece was inserted into cable bills.  The flyer to the right, which was produced on various neon paper, was produced at no cost to any of the arts organizations and was distributed through Dali Museum press packets and group tour operator packets in addition to other outlets and highlighted the concentration of the arts facilities in downtown St. Petersburg.  It was used by the Dali Museum as a sales tool to bring in groups and promote the city to travel writers as early as 1990.

The Artworks! flyer, as simple as it was, created a focus on the arts through events in downtown St. Petersburg in 1991. This piece was inserted into cable bills. The flyer to the right, which was produced on various neon paper, was produced at no cost to any of the arts organizations and was distributed through Dali Museum press packets and group tour operator packets in addition to other outlets and highlighted the concentration of the arts facilities in downtown St. Petersburg. It was used by the Dali Museum as a sales tool to bring in groups and promote the city to travel writers as early as 1990.

In 1993, the first Museum Month was developed and was a cooperative effort among the Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Great Explorations and the Museum of History. It involved friends and colleagues: Mary Lee Hanley, David Blackman, Don Baldwin, Anita Treiser and I.

The first Museum Month in 1993 is celebrated at City Hall with Mayor David Fischer, Michael Milkovich (Museum of Fine Arts), Mary Wyatt Allen (St. Petersburg Museum of History), Wayne Atherholt (Dali Museum), Eileen Smith (Great Explorations) and Anita Treiser with the City of St. Petersburg.

The first Museum Month in 1993 is celebrated at City Hall with Mayor David Fischer, Michael Milkovich (Museum of Fine Arts), Mary Wyatt Allen (St. Petersburg Museum of History), Wayne Atherholt (Dali Museum), Eileen Smith (Great Explorations) and Anita Treiser with the City of St. Petersburg.

Anita was with the City of St. Petersburg and was instrumental in making this happen as the city agreed to print the brochures that were used to promote the event. Each of us had committed to making sure downtown St. Petersburg was a success and the success of downtown St. Petersburg was essential to the institutions we served.  Here is a link to a Museum Month brochure from 1995.

A press release from 1995 publicizing Museum Month in downtown St. Petersburg.

A press release from 1995 publicizing Museum Month in downtown St. Petersburg.

The tasks were divided up, usually at a happy hour somewhere downtown.  And back then the selection of places for happy hour consisted of about four locations.  Someone took on the job of compiling the events, creating and distributing press releases, creating a poster and brochure, faxing information sheets to area hotels and other tasks to make the first “Sunsational Museums Month” a success and gain publicity for the fact that there were four excellent museums all located in downtown St. Petersburg.  Keep in mind this was all done before the internet.  We had word processors and fax machines in those earlier days.

Continued in Part 3

Another cooperative effort for Museum Month was sponsored by USAir.

Another cooperative effort for Museum Month was sponsored by USAir (Nell Iba, a friend from my airline days helped on this) and the St. Petersburg Times.  We also got a hotel stay that was coordinated by the Stouffer Vinoy Resort that had just opened in St. Petersburg.

Continued in Part 3