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Local News

Destination 2020 Seeks More Visitors To Pensacola Area

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Local tourism took center stage Thursday, as the destination marketing organization Visit Pensacola unveiled its five-year blueprint for increasing the numbers who come for a visit.

“Destination 2020” was warmly received by more than 400 people who attended the event at the newly renovated REX Theater downtown, which for the occasion was decorated in a 1940s and 50s motif, taking everyone back to the REX’ earlier heyday. The M.C.s were Robin Reshard, who chairs the Visit Pensacola Board of Directors, and Collier Merrill, the group’s Strategic Planning Committee.

“What we’re trying to do going forward in Destination 2020 is come up with something everybody can get around,” said Merrill.

Visit Pensacola conducted seven dialogue sessions in Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Perdido Key. People from all walks of life weighed in on the area’s assets -- the people, the beaches, history and culture.  A video helped drive home the point that tourism and economic growth are intertwined.

“If you look at….the tourist economy for this area as an economic engine, one of the things we did was a ‘SWOT’ analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and perceived Threats,” said Bill Geist with Zeitgeist Consulting in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been working with local officials on developing Destination 2020.

“From that, what we really found was that this community’s got a really strong base, a good foundation from which we can grow,” Geist said. “You have what people are looking for, and we’ve got six primary strengths that we identified that this community has.”

Those strengths are: the environment, diversity of things to do, quality of life, emerging leadership, 456 years of history, and a vibrant downtown Pensacola. Mona Amodeo with id-group and Showcase Pensacola told the audience the numbers show that the area is no longer a secret.

“In 2014, tax revenues were up almost 11%, and the total hotel revenues increased almost 16%,” said Amodeo. “What we’re seeing in 2015 is that these numbers continue to move upwards.”

Other key findings are a need for improved transportation and marketing connectivity between Downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Perdido Key; better first impressions at beaches, historic districts, and the airport, and expanding hotels, conference centers and air service.

What’s next? Visit Pensacola President Steve Hayes boiled down phase-2 of the nine-month project to four words: lead, connect, collaborate, and communicate. He added that it’s vital to create a community for local residents, then use that to attract visitors.

 

"I would like to thank Steve Hayes and id group for their outstanding efforts with Destination 2020. It has been amazing to have been involved in this process from the initial kickoff and dialogue sessions all the way through to the event yesterday. The City of Pensacola was proudly represented at this event yesterday from the Office of the Mayor’s communications team, Parks and Recreation and the Airport’s marketing team among others. Tourism is a crucial component in our economic landscape and continued collaboration is vital to the success of Destination 2020. I look forward to continued partnerships in building tourism in our community and will continue to help in any way I can."Mayor Ashton Hayward Posted by City of Pensacola Government on Friday, May 8, 2015

“One, is build year-round visitation through branding and marketing,” said Hayes. “Two, is diversify our visitor segments. What I mean by that is take advantage of our current trends and opportunities, by marketing to diverse groups across all generations and all ethnic groups.”

Also on the list: improving the overall visitor experience – such as niche markets in musical or cultural tourism, along with open spaces for interaction and continued growth in the hotel, restaurant, and retail sectors.

The event at the REX Theater provided just a summary of what’s contained in Destination 2020. As Visit Pensacola’s Steve Hayes said as the audience filed out after the presentation:

“Now the real work begins.”

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