Introduction• Citrus County Chamber of Commerce has facilitated visitors and inquiries for over 25 years and it is well documented in 2005 that the Chamber of Commerce received 1,536,717 hits on their website and over 900 inquiries per month to request information on tourism; in addition over 36,177 people visited the Chamber locations and 11,702 were related directly to tourism. Since March 2006 over 7,700 telephone calls were received by the Chamber offices and over 2,600 were tourism and special events requests. To date, 21,085 people have walked in to the Chamber locations requesting tourism information and 6,940 people received information.• The operational cost for facilitating the Tourism Division of the Chamber had been partially paid by the Tourism Development Council (TDC) under contract since 2001 and when the TDC cancelled the contract in 2006 (expired September 30, 2006) with the Chamber of Commerce to fulfill tourism requests the Chamber of Commerce formed a new division to support advertising and promotion for Citrus County that includes an online reservations system with an automated booking engine so Citrus County vacation packages can be sold online and utilizes tracking mechanisms that analyze marketing for strategic planning.• These statistics along with the Chambers historic prominence as the County’s authority on tourism and tourism related issues supports the Chambers position of maintaining and strengthening the proven “Chamber” brand as the first “Top of The Mind” contact that visitors communicate with when acquiring information about Citrus County and why the Chamber of Commerce Tourism Development Services Division can step up to the plate with a marketing plan for 2007 advertisement and promotion for the fourth and first quarters of the year so that numerous deadlines for advertising, trade shows and promotions are not missed.
Mission Statement• The Citrus County Chamber Mission Statement clearly supports a vision of a community working together: “An organization of businesses unified in its effort to advance the economic growth of the region, promote the interests of the business community, provide leadership on key commerce issues and preserve the county’s quality of life.”• Citrus County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Development Services has a vision of a community working together for tourism and to market the experience of travel, which is the major motivation for travel. Part of this vision is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well being of local people while providing a quality experience that connects the visitor to nature.• The mission of our new division is “To be the leader in the economic development of Citrus County by attracting and servicing visitors, generating income, jobs and tax revenues which make the community a better place to live and visit.”
Marketing Strategy• To develop a community design marketing plan net rates must be established from hotels and tour products that promote Citrus County community natural assets and festivals. Net rates will create vacation packages that can be sold before and after county festivals that are promoted by Citrus County businesses, cities and organizations.• In addition, this enables tracking mechanisms that began with inquiries and reservations and proceeds to placement of media and print ads. The tracking mechanisms will analyze whether utilizing certain media and print ads generated bed tax revenue.• A special project funding should be established so that the Citrus County community can promote their festivals and activities that generate bed tax revenue. For discussion there are a number of high profile events in the City of Inverness and should be supported with special project funding as it is well documented that a number of people requested hotel accommodations.
Co-op Marketing• The Chamber will develop and promote a marketing campaign supporting Fiscal Year 2007/2008 budget. A campaign will aggressively promote Eco Heritage Tourism for the mid-week/off-season period targeting Elderhostel, Student Educational Tours, and the Geo-tourism traveler.• Citrus County would be established as a location that is conveniently traveled to by car and motorcoach. One way this will be accomplished is by working with Chamber of Commerce, TDCs, and CVBs in major feeder cities such as Ft. Myers, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee, West Palm Beach, Gainesville, Miami, Panama City, and Tampa.• The Chamber’s agency will provide an open-door policy of communication in the agency’s local corporate office for co-op marketing opportunities with travel industry and nature-based businesses located in Citrus County. In addition, local businesses will provide net rates so that dynamic packaging can be developed and sold online, which would expand room revenue that increases bed tax revenue to benefit community services.
Marketing Plan• Consumer marketing programs, promotions and special events attract individual leisure, groups and business visitors to Citrus County from all over the world. Cohesive and compelling programs help increase hotel room occupancy and daily use of Citrus County travel provider services. Primary marketing strategies focus on expanding Citrus County brand to visitors: $ Within driving distance $ Within other identified key markets $ Staying with friends and relatives $ Coming in the off-season (to increase hotel occupancy April – November) $ Defining market segments• Travel provider participation drives the success of Citrus County’s marketing objectives. Customized packages help Citrus County travel providers reach targeted audiences.
Marketing Plan• The Tourism Division works with tour operators, travel agents, airlines and other segments of the professional travel trade worldwide to expand tour programming to Citrus County. Staff develops and promotes a wide range of programs including: $ Eco Tourism $ Leisure $ Individuals (FIT) $ Special Interest $ Incentive $ Groups• With the continued interest by the travel trade in packages, the Tourism Division will capitalize on Citrus County’s extensive nature-based activities: $ Birding $ Boating $ Canoeing/Kayaking $ Eco Tours $ Festivals $ Fishing $ Golf $ Heritage $ Manatee/Dive $ Nature Trail/Bicycling
Advertisement/Media• Leisure Campaign• Television: 30-second spots• Orlando• Tampa• Tallahassee• Jacksonville• Ft. Lauderdale/Palm Beach• Print Media (to be decided)• Newspaper Advertisement (to be decided)• Out-of-Home Media (continue annual contract)• Outdoor Bulletin Boards (continue annual contract, increase to 4 more billboards)• Internet Advertising• Citrus County Chamber of Commerce link• Visit Florida.com link• Florida Magazine.com link• Audubon.org website link• 20 Additional website links (to be decided)• Leisure Print Co-op Opportunities• Florida Monthly (to be decided)• Misc. print (to be decided)• E-Marketing (to be decided)• Promotions (to be decided)• Direct Mail out (to be decided)
Campaign• A community working together to create a sustainable Florida community by educating and developing product that connects the visitor to nature and to the local community.
Grants• Fish & Wildlife Non-game Wildlife Grants Program• PADI AMERICAS• The Nature Conservancy• Collins Center for Public Policy (sustainable Florida)• Green Globe• Progress Energy• Visit Florida• Visit Florida Downtowns & Small Towns• Florida Department of State Guide to Grants• SWFWMD• Florida Humanities Council• John F. MacArthur Foundation
Summary• Division of the Chamber of Commerce. Overall in convention and visitor bureaus across the country 7.3% are divisions of Chambers with the balance being divided among city, county and state agencies. Among small bureaus, i.e., bureaus with budgets $500,000 annually, 18.2% are a division of a chamber of commerce. It is generally found in smaller communities where tourism is a significant component, sometimes the only component of a chamber.• Background information: In the last twenty-five years, communities which are interested in raising their profile, improving their public image, and attracting visitors have found that competitive forces require an aggressive public relations and sales oriented marketing effort. A non-profit Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) (less commonly called a Visitor and Convention Bureau or VCB), has been the standard organization created to promote a city, county or region. While there are norms within the more than 400 CVBs in the U.S., there are many variations that have been developed to meet the needs of particular communities. Two relevant tourism trends, both involving the benefits of partnering, are the development of public/private partnerships and the expansion from single-community organizations to multi-community organizations.
Summary• The purpose of a Convention and Visitors Bureau is to enhance the economic vitality of the region by marketing the destination to visitors, meeting and convention planners, tour operators, motorcoach operators, and travel agents and therefore improve the quality of life for residents in the community. The role and responsibility of a Convention and Visitors Bureau, within the community, is significant and may include:• Promoting the history, cultural, retail, restaurant, and recreational attractions of the destination• Developing a marketing campaign to attract new visitors and convention delegate to the destination• Working with local, regional, state, and national and international media outlets• Implementing print, radio, television, and new media marketing campaigns• Conducting telemarketing, direct mail, and public relations programs• Coordinate cooperative advertising programs and attend consumer and trade shows
Summary• Servicing the needs of groups coming to the destination such as accommodations, transportation, etc.• Servicing the needs of visitors coming to the destination such as developing and sending visitors guides, maintaining information centers, full-time inquiry response• Creating and advocating for new tourism product development• Convention and Visitors Bureaus are non-profit organizations primarily funded with public funds• Convention and Visitors Bureaus can be supported by membership or sponsorship investment and most offer pay-to-play marketing opportunities• Convention and Visitors Bureaus are consumer centric; chambers of commerce are member centric.• Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau are vitally important to the economic climate of a community while providing different and complimentary roles and responsibilities. Study done by Tourism Development Associates, April 2004