NEW YORK: PR firms representing warm weather tourism clients are pitching beyond the sun and sand as the nation starts thinking about summer vacations.
"People want unique experiences," said Gail Moaney, EVP, travel and economic development at Ruder Finn, which represents the Jamaica tourism board. "We're all trying to find things that differentiate our destinations."
Moaney said that with 30 member countries in the Caribbean Tourism Organization, agencies have to get more creative and go after niche markets.
"We do that by targeting niche audiences and their special interests," Moaney said, such as literary festivals or culinary workshops. "People who don't normally think of the Caribbean for vacation will travel when you tap into that personal interest or hobby."
She added that family vacationers were showing more of an interest in soft adventure tourism, like white water rafting, rock climbing, and biking.
The media is also looking for that differentiation.
"Editors are looking for special events and things would quickly drive people into a 'call to action,'" said Virginia Sheridan, president of M Silver Associates.
Stacey Weiss, VP and director of PR at BVK, said the Dominican Republic, its client, is playing up the story that the remains of Christopher Columbus are allegedly located in a cathedral in the country.
"It's a neat opportunity for parents to provide a historical aspect their kids," Weiss said.
The warm weather destinations are not only facing competition from surrounding areas, but from the fact that many people will have beach locations a short trip away.
"The challenge is attracting people when they already have sun and sand at home," Moaney said.
For one destination, that creativity comes in the form of a challenging a perennial hotspot.
M Silver's client, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, has seen a spike in interest for the locale as a summer destination, due to its contrast to New York's Hamptons. Fort Lauderdale usually sees more business in the winter during its primary season.
"The Hamptons are too crowded and very expensive. With low-fare flights, [vacationers] can easily jump on a plane and have a second vacation," Sheridan said. "It's a new opportunity to think about Greater Fort Lauderdale as a summer beach getaway."