The Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau has had quite a year, with the successes of National Seashell Day and the Island Hopper Songwriter Festival, as well as their "Find Your Island" media campaign.
Brian Ososky, marketing director for the VCB, said that's only the beginning as he spoke to members of the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Tourist Development Council (TDC) meeting held at Big Blue Brewing in Cape Coral Thursday.
Ososky said most metrics regarding bed tax collection, visitation and spending were up sharply from last year, particularly with the events held in the area.
The third-annual Songwriter Festival, which happened in late September and early October during slow season, had an 11 percent increase in visitation over 2015 as it accepted more venues outside of Captiva, including downtown Fort Myers.
Ososky said in just a short time, the festival has grown to rival similar ones in quality, even among the songwriters.
"Everything ran smoothly and the songwriters love it. We modelled it after the Key West songwriter festival, and they've done it for 20 years," Ososky said. "Songwriters come to me and say they love ours more than Key West. It's catching on, it has legs and we're getting better at it."
Ososky hopes he can expand the festival to Cape Coral next year.
Ososky also discussed the new "Islandology" marketing and advertising campaign, which will be a step up from the previous "Find Your Island" campaign that worked so well.
"Find Your Island was meant to represent escape from the every day, and we have plenty of them for you to enjoy," Ososky said. "It's what visitors learn about our destination. We have truths and wisdoms we want to share that are meant for different groups of consumers that pull at heartstrings."
The campaign features breathtaking photos taken by visitors (not professionals) with words of wisdom such as "A getaway should get you away."
"People do want to be around water, they want to have a wide-open schedule. This is scratching the surface. We have a lot of 'ologies' coming on line in 2017," Ososky said.
People are more technically savvy, booking online and via mobile phone, so much of the campaign will be digital. However, Ososky said they aren't going to abandon their core demographics or traditional media and print.
"We want to start generating relationships with Millennials, so when they decide to visit, they'll become repeat visitors and have a relationship," Ososky said.
Tamara Pigott, TDC chairperson, said she was very excited with the campaign and new branding as it speaks to what makes Southwest Florida so special.
"We all have an ideology, but we also have an islandology, a way of life and how we feel and it makes you feel special," Pigott said. "We've focused on the islands because they're so unique, but this takes it up a notch and speaks to your personal islandology."
The TDC traditionally goes on a field trip at the end of the year to different locations as opposed to its Fort Myers office. Joanne Elardo, owner of Big Blue Brewing, was thrilled to host the event, which included a recaption and tour after the meeting.
"It's important for us that they support Cape Coral since they funnel tourism dollars to our city. If we can grow tourism here, we have a new budding industry," Elardo said. "We're going great here, we have a Farmer's Market on Saturday with a brunch afterward, great music on the weekends, and we get our food locally sourced."