ST. CROIX HERITAGE DANCERS PERFORM DURING DOT VIRGIN ISLANDS EVENT AT THE VILLAGES RETIREMENT COMMUNITY IN CENTRAL FLORIDA.
When the Department of Tourism took to the road on Thursday as part of its strategy to target potential visitors in key geographic markets, the crowds were waiting. The DOT took Central Florida (Orlando area) by storm with a series of events to promote the accessibility, value and unique offerings of the U.S. Virgin Islands to potential visitors.
The day started off with a bang on Friday, May 14 at the Savannah Center located at the Villages Travel Expo, a premier retirement community located in Lady Lake, Fla. whose residents belong to the “baby boomer” demographic and are known to have a high disposable income and propensity to travel. The DOT and five hoteliers (Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, Divi Carina Bay, Frenchman’s Reef & Morningstar Marriott Beach Resort, Secret Harbour and Windward Passage) exhibited to a crowd of more than 3,500 potential visitors over the course of six hours. Residents turned out in droves, armed with copies of the locally placed ads which announced the DOT’s presence. Among the 3,500 were hundreds of Virgin Islands fans such as a couple who has visited Frenchman’s Reef & Morningstar Marriott Beach Resort more 17 times, dating back to when the hotel was a Holiday Inn and Nick Porzal was the manager. Another resident attributed her 38-year marriage to starting off on the right foot with a honeymoon to the Virgin Islands.
DOT’s booth at the Florida Mall.
Later that evening, the DOT hosted a Virgin Islands Experience at The Villages Town Square, one of the community’s most popular venues. The anticipated performances attracted more than 2,000 residents and featured Quelbe music by Stanley and The Ten Sleepless Knights, quadrille performed by the St. Croix Heritage Dancers and performances by Carnival Dancers and Mocko Jumbies.
To inform and excite residents about the show and the DOT’s presence, advertisements were placed in the Villages’ daily newspaper and on their local radio networks. As a compliment to its advertising efforts, the team also secured editorial exposure for the event by facilitating an interview between Stanley Jacobs and a reporter with the Villages Daily Sun.
By the end of the four-hour experience more than 500 spectators, who were visibly caught up in the lively atmosphere, were dancing the “electric slide” alongside the Carnival dancers, St. Croix Heritage dancers and the more than 50 Virgin Islanders from The Villages and surrounding areas that came out to help share the spirit of the Territory.
“Tonight’s performance by the U.S. Virgin Islands was by far one of the best that we’ve had at The Villages. The entire community was looking forward to tonight’s event,” said show organizer for The Villages, Evelyn Stetler.
Residents of The Villages dancing to the sounds of Stanley and The Ten Sleepless Knights during the DOT Virgin Islands Experience.
“We believe the residents’ excitement displayed at Friday night’s event will translate into business for the territory,” stated Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty. “Many of these residents are fans and repeat visitors of the Virgin Islands and expressed keen interest in making a return visit before year’s end.”
The energy and enthusiasm continued into the next day at The Florida Mall in Orlando, where the U.S. Virgin Islands took over the popular Orlando shopping complex, The Florida Mall—one of the highest-traffic retail locations in the area. Shoppers lined up around the trade show booth to be entertained by traditional steel pan music and authentic Carnival dancers, a new addition to Virgin Islands consumer events which kept the crowd steady all day. Following the DOT’s series of events in another key market, Atlanta, in December of 2009, the DOT evaluated ways to enhance the consumer experience and make it even more exciting. Another new addition included on-site travel agents; Travel Impressions was on-hand during both days of the mall events to book and facilitate on-the-spot vacation requests to the territory.
Many Virgin Islanders from the Orlando area visited the Virgin Islands Experience at the mall to show support. For these Virgin Islanders, they got more than just a taste of home. They were able to reconnect with other Virgin Islanders living in the Orlando area, turning the event into a reunion.
U.S. Virgin Islands Carnival dancer interacting with shoppers at The Florida Mall.
Earlier in the week, the DOT-hosted travel agent reception held last Thursday for the area’s top selling agents was attended by more than 60 travel agents.
Created exclusively for this sales blitz (beginning May 13 and ending May 29), the DOT promoted the specially created “Rediscover Summer” offer during all events. This exclusive travel package was developed to stimulate bookings among Central Florida residents and increase on-island spend. It features rich, added-value components for consumers, including a $300 air credit and certificates towards shopping and dining at on-island businesses. The “Rediscover Summer” offer will be available through a long-established USVI tour operator partner. The booking window is May 9 – 29 with a travel window of May 15 – July 17, 2010. By targeting efforts with a single partner and a relatively short booking window, the DOT will be able to measure the immediate return on investment of the week’s activities.