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Alliance is first of its kind for internationally respected travel leader

Lee County VCB teams with Lonely Planet

In a first-of-its-kind marketing alliance, the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) announced a strategic partnership with Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel publisher with an unmatched range of global coverage.

The announcement was made during the VCB’s annual Team Tourism Summit held this morning at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa. The VCB represents The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel on southwest Florida’s Gulf coast.

In the multi-platform partnership, Lonely Planet is creating and producing a customized destination guidebook, a digital/online version of the guide, a mobile application of the guide, and other digital solutions that will expand the VCB’s marketing reach exponentially. As a result, the partnership allows the VCB to respond more effectively to social media that have created a demand for additional content in more places.

“There’s no better global marketing partner for our destination than Lonely Planet. Their commitment to sustainability and responsible, respectful travel is the same as ours when it comes to protecting and preserving our beaches and other natural resources,” said Tamara Pigott, VCB executive director, in announcing the new partnership. “Plus, the audience for their products closely matches the psychographic profile of our visitor; and their demographic includes a younger audience, so it gives us an opportunity to introduce our brand to them.”

Besides producing the destination guidebook, an e-guide and mobile application of the guide, Lonely Planet will create and house a microsite for the destination on its website – with versions for the U.S., U.K. and Germany – and then drive traffic to the microsite by advertising it to visitors on other areas of its website. The company also will produce eight two- to three-minute videos hosted by Lonely Planet authors and showcasing various aspects of the destination, two of which will be translated into German. The videos will air on Lonely Planet’s website and its YouTube channel as well as on syndication partner outlets currently under negotiation.

Lonely Planet also will provide the destination guidebook as a gift with purchase from the destination’s top feeder markets on www.LonelyPlanet.com, and it is reaching out to its trade vendors to ascertain if they would give the guidebook as a gift with the purchase of Lonely Planet products.

In addition, as part of the new marketing alliance, the destination receives six full-page advertisements in the UK edition of Lonely Planet magazine with a distribution of 80,000 in Europe. And all of the content that Lonely Planet creates for the destination will be available to the VCB for use on its consumer website and in other marketing initiatives through a licensing agreement between the two organizations.

Pigott said the new partnership allows the VCB to leverage an association with a respected international travel leader that provides the bureau with an unmatched range of global coverage and that the destination will benefit from the unparalleled marketing exposure and trusted third-party source that Lonely Planet provides.

Lonely Planet has published more than 100 million travel guidebooks since 1973 and sells more than 6.5 million each year. The organization employs 365 authors who live in 37 countries and speak 70 languages. In the online world, www.LonelyPlanet.com boasts more than 8 million website visitors each month and 1.8 million online community members. The site generates new online posts every 12 seconds.

In addition to its renowned destination guidebooks and website, Lonely Planet’s global products include: Lonely Planet magazine; photo books; travel literature; social networking outlets; customized mobile applications; content licensing for its guidebooks, maps, images, and custom articles and feature stories; Lonely Planet television; custom videos; and expert travel authorities oftentimes featured on the speaking circuit and quoted in international media outlets.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau,” said Lonely Planet Executive Vice President John Boris. “Utilizing multi-channel solutions, our Client Solutions Team and expert authors are developing content across print, digital, mobile, video and advertising platforms in multiple languages. And, with this partnership, the destination is able to provide consumers with trusted travel recommendations from the world’s leading travel content provider.”

Pigott said the new marketing alliance stemmed from an analysis of the VCB’s marketing needs, consumer travel trends and changing marketplace conditions. That analysis also guided the development of the organization’s 2010-2011 sales and marketing plan, which it unveiled at the Team Tourism Summit.

Despite the economic challenges of the last year, the VCB is projecting for 2010 a year-over-year increase in visitors staying in paid accommodations for the second year in a row. Given this success, Pigott said the VCB will stay the course in the coming fiscal year, with some adjustments and refinements to its marketing efforts.

In addition to pursuing proven markets, she said the organization plans to court market segments that are not as deeply impacted by economic conditions and motivate potential visitors in decision?making in the destination’s favor. It also intends to strengthen its sales efforts and hone its messaging as it places a special emphasis on the state of Florida, established international markets, and the group motorcoach market. And, with the increasing influence of the Internet on consumer travel, digital marketing will be another VCB emphasis for the year.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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