LEE COUNTY The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau today released new consumer research that will guide the organization's efforts to continue to develop the tourism pipeline and grow both shoulder and off-peak visitation two of its four imperatives in its 2013-2016 strategic plan.
"Lee County's visitor population is aging five times faster than the global trend," said VCB Executive Director Tamara Pigott in a press release announcing the findings. "Even though we're currently achieving record-breaking visitation, we need to address this longer-term visitor loss by defining the next generation of travelers and begin to market to them. As a destination, we cannot rest on our laurels."
Pigott said the VCB will use the latest research findings to help gain an edge over other sun and sand destinations, and to develop off-season strategies for emerging travel segments. The consumer survey included an overall market assessment, a competitive analysis, and an attitudinal-segmentation breakdown.
One of the key research findings revealed that increasing awareness of the destination will drive greater visitation. The majority of those surveyed who are aware of the destination would consider visiting in the next five years (81 percent) a much stronger relationship between familiarity and consideration than seen for other Florida beach destinations. One out of 10 travelers had taken a trip to Lee County in the past five years (11 percent) a level that rivals leading destinations in the state (Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, and Tampa). Similarly, past five-year visitation is notably higher among travelers who claim they are aware of the destination, with one-third saying they have been to the area in that timeframe.
The research also revealed some untapped potential for visitation. Compared to other Florida beach destinations, this area has one of the largest gaps between the number of travelers who have been to Lee County in the past five years (11 percent) and the number who would consider traveling to the area in the next five years (28 percent).
"This 17 percent gap gives us an opportunity to drive visitation from travelers who dream of visiting here," Pigott said.
Some of the factors that entice travelers to take warm-weather vacations provide a greater understanding of how to compete with similar destinations. Of those surveyed, the most important factors were value, escape and beaches/warm weather. Lee County performs strongly in terms of being an escape, and having beaches/warm weather; but, it is perceived as lower than average in terms of value.
Data analysis also revealed four promising new target markets for the destination by identifying travel segments of like-minded consumers. Top prospects are Activity Seekers young travelers looking for adventure, and also enjoy the variety of city life. Affluent Explorers travelers from high-income households who say vacations are essential to their happiness and who like luxuries but who also want local culture when traveling.
Secondary targets are Nature Admirers cost-conscious vacationers who want to reconnect with nature to relax and unwind. Social Sharers - young women who are career-focused, cost-conscious and enjoy dining out and nightlife while on vacation. They use social media to share and stay connected.
"We'll use these four travel segment profiles to guide our marketing efforts," Pigott said. "That includes targeting meaningful messaging to each segment to motivate visitation."
Pigott invited industry partners to access the research findings to help guide their future marketing efforts for greater impact and efficiencies.
"The more we coordinate marketing efforts across our local travel industry, the greater the likelihood of sustaining increased visitation," she said.
The VCB's Leisure Traveler Market Assessment was conducted in February 2014 among 2,074 American consumers. Respondents were drawn from residents of states in the South, Midwest, and Northeast regions of the country to represent core feeder markets for destination visitors. The sample was drawn in proportions that mirrored the estimated populations from each area so that the findings are projectable to the overall populations. Additionally, travelers from Colorado and California were surveyed to profile prospects from markets that may warrant future consideration.
Travel industry partners can access the complete research findings in the Statistics section of the partner website at www.LeeVCB.com, and VCB staff members are available to review detailed research findings with any partner who wishes to take advantage of the new marketing resource.
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel include: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande and Outer islands, North Fort Myers, and Lehigh Acres.