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Monday, 01 September, 2014, 17 : 00 PM [IST]

Visit Tampa Bay: Revealing Hidden Treasures

Following a successful debut in the Indian market with IIFA Awards 2014 as a platform, Tampa Bay has won hearts not only through India’s favourite Bollywood actors featured at the destination, but also through the diversity of its offerings. Shreya Kand studies Visit Tampa Bay’s plans for the Indian market
A dynamic and diverse region, Tampa Bay, a natural harbour and estuary along the Gulf of Mexico on the West Central coast of Florida, enjoys an excellent quality of life. From the waterfront location to the Southern hospitality of its residents, the area takes prides in its vibrancy and welcoming spirit. The only city to be invaded by a band of pirates during the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival, special events and festivals are part of the area’s cultural fabric. From balloon rides, strawberry farms and lush nature, to walkable neighbourhoods, the region’s character is hard to match. It easily blends its rich, cultural heritage with big-city style. With much to experience, one quickly discovers an exciting, authentic metropolis. “Tampa Bay is filled with hidden gems, ready for every visitor to discover. This destination has rich culture, adventure, a great dining and nightlife scene, and multiple outdoor activities for everyone to explore,” said Santiago Corrada, President and CEO, Visit Tampa Bay.

visit_tampa_bay_1.jpgGreen Carpet Entrance
India is a new market for Tampa Bay. The destination gained recognition in the market after the telecast of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards in June 2014. The IIFA Awards took place in Tampa Bay in April 2014, which brought the destination to the notice of the audience. Corrada said, “Just having our name in the IIFA broadcast has increased our visibility, but the ‘Weekend with the Stars’ segments in and around our region has really showcased what Tampa Bay has to offer.” The tourism board will showcase Tampa Bay in India as a waterfront destination with varied options for travellers. They are focusing on experiences like shopping, attractions, historic/cultural venues, and cruise opportunities for Indian tourists.

When interviewed about the products they would like to promote in the Indian market, Corrada said, “Tampa Bay is the product we are promoting. When speaking about specific products within the market, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo are great family attractions. They can all be combined in a product called CityPass. This pass provides the best value for several attractions while visiting our area. It can be purchased directly through us or a large tour operator. Another great product of Tampa Bay is International Plaza and Bay Street, the ultimate shopping experience with both moderate and high-end name brands. Equally famous is Ybor City, our historic landmark district located close to our cruise terminals.”

To grow on their successes, Visit Tampa Bay plans to continue its forward momentum, educate consumers and travel providers, and increase visitation from India.The tourism board is mainly looking at the cities in India with the best air connectivity, namely Mumbai and New Delhi. They have visited several travel providers in these areas, participated in events and hosted Familiarisation (FAM) tours to Tampa Bay.

Being a long-haul destination, it is a challenge to promote Tampa Bay in the Indian market. The travel segments targeted by Visit Tampa Bay are mainly Free Individual Travellers (FITs), Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFRs), and Business Travellers.

Corrada said , “Our representatives will be training, promoting and suggesting itineraries throughout the year. We will also be in attendance at the Brand USA India Mission and Seminar in the coming months. We have secured in-market representation in both the media and sales arenas. We will partner with Brand USA and our state agency, Visit Florida, to garner exposure within these segments. Lastly, Tampa Bay will have an increased presence at trade shows, sales missions and seminars.”

visit_tampa_bay_3.jpgThe IIFA Impact
IIFA provided Tampa Bay the opportunity to enter a new market, host some of Bollywood’s biggest stars and events, allow residents and visitors to experience the universal passion for Indian cinema, all while creating a lasting economic impact on Tampa Bay.

The four-day series of events, ending with the April 26 awards ceremony at Raymond James Stadium, attracted an estimated 30,000 visitors. It generated nearly USD 32 million in direct spending in Hillsborough County and a total economic impact of USD 56 million. Economic impact figures take into account the trickle-down spending on goods, services and money spent by employees of hotels, restaurants and other businesses as a result of IIFA.

Weekend hotel occupancy rates in Tampa Bay were up by 83 per cent this year compared with 68 per cent in 2013. On April 26, which was a Saturday, hotel occupancy rates exceeded those on the Saturday a year ago by 21 per cent. Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR), a measure of a hotel’s revenue divided by available rooms, was up from USD 57 last year to USD 93 during IIFA, a jump of 63 per cent.

Media impressions, the number of times people received an impression of Tampa Bay as a result of it being mentioned in combination with IIFA in newspapers, blogs, radio, television, etc., totaled USD 13.2 billion in April this year.

Corrada said, “It was great to have some of Indian cinema’s greatest stars come and experience the adventure that lives within Tampa Bay. From roller coasters to paddle boarding, shopping and musical collaborations, stars experienced all of the treasures on the Tampa Bay map. We are happy they enjoyed their stay here.”
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