White Glove Treatment For Superior Small Lodgings


The Superior Small Lodging Association is smiling bright this week. The group just notched impressive results in its annual quality-assurance audit. Find out which properties got the”White Glove” treatment.

In all, 33 of the 37 Superior Small Lodgings received the Donal A. Dermody White Glove Award, recognizing their outstanding performance in housekeeping. The evaluation was performed by the Property Review Program, an independent on-site inspection service. All 37 passed the audit.

The Superior Small Lodging distinction is for properties with 50 rooms or less and has properties in almost every community in St. Pete/Clearwater.

The White Glove lodgings include the following:

  • 810 Gulfside Resort
  • Arbor Seaside Cottages
  • Bay Palms Waterfront
  • Bayview Plaza Resort
  • Beach Haven Villas
  • Beach Side Palms
  • Blue Moon Inn
  • Blue Water Beach Rentals
  • Camelot Resort
  • Cay Pointe Villa
  • Coconut Inn
  • Coconut Villas of Dunedin
  • Colonial Court Inn
  • East Shore Resort
  • Ebb Tide Resort
  • Frenchy’s Oasis Motel
  • Inn on the Beach
  • Island Paradise Cottages and Apartments of Madeira Beach
  • Island’s End Resort
  • Miramar Beach Resort
  • Page Terrace Motel
  • Palm Pavilion Inn
  • Park Circle B&B
  • Parker Manor Resort
  • Pasa Tiempo
  • Plaza Beach Resort
  • Sabal Palms Inn
  • Sand Glo Villas
  • Sarah’s Seaside
  • Sea Captain
  • Sea Chest Motel
  • Seabreeze Manor B&B
  • Shoreline Island Resort

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Groupon: Good For Hotels Or Just Customers?


If you opened a recent email from Groupon Getaways, you would have seen a local hotel on St. Pete Beach offering amazing deals: Postcard Inn on the Beach was in the process of selling almost 800 rooms at just $89 per night. And the deal included welcome drinks, too.

All-in-all, it was a 45% off of PCIs regular rate. So, with hundreds of Groupons sold, CVBeat sat down with PCI’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Bob Sauerwine, to find out if this new marketing and sales trend was actually beneficial for his property.

CVBeat: Is Groupon a better way to reach customers than traditional marketing?

Sauerwine: I would not say it’s better, but it is different. It has an immediate response unlike traditional print ad, banner ads, etc. And it’s very trackable, whereas some banner ads or print ads are sometimes difficult even with tracking steps in place. It is also a way to fill low-demand periods in a very short period of time.

CVBeat: Considering your Groupon was a 45% discount on your room rate, was this good for business?

Sauerwine: Yes. It fills need dates and can be catered to your business’s needs. Also, people buy the coupons but may never use them, which is called “breakage.” When this happens it makes the marketing campaign more profitable, since it shrinks the percentage of those who actually redeem the coupon.

CVBeat: Almost 800 people bought your Groupon. Was this more than you expected?

Sauerwine: This was our first experiment with Groupon and it was a huge success. Groupon also was so impressed with the results that they extended the offer.

CVBeat: What are some problems associated with offering internet coupons?

Sauerwine: We are so new into the program that we really don’t see any real big problems—other than having adequate staff to answer the phone, but that’s a great problem to have.

CVBeat: There are alternatives to using Groupons, like Living Social and Facebook deals.  Are you using any other sites to reach customers?

Sauerwine: Yes. We actively use social media to create a following for all of our special events. We also use email blasts of our database of emails to promote the property, specials in the restaurant, special events and room night offers. We have done Living Social and are looking into ZOZI, too.

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VSPC’s Arts Campaign Builds On Beaches

See how VSPC’s highly-targeted arts and culture campaign builds upon our “America’s Best Beaches” message, growing the area’s brand by touting the treasures beyond the beach.Culture

In 2012-13, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater placed 44 ads (example of one pictured) that racked up more than 8 million impressions in the destination’s top markets, building the brand’s cultural tourism footprint. That list includes Creative Loafing Magazine, New York City’s Playbill Magazine, New York Times Sunday Magazine and Tampa Bay Times “Bay” Magazine. (Click here to see copies of the cultural tourism ads placed in the last year, as well as a list of the publications they appeared in.)

The print ads featured snapshot visuals from some of St. Pete/Clearwater’s most prominent museums, attractions and performing arts centers, such as The Dali, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Ruth Eckerd Hall.

A highlight of the program were the hang tags distributed at Hertz at both area airports last summer. Each car featured a hanger that read “Steer yourself in a more artistic direction.”

Other notable efforts in the campaign include:

  • Beach and culture maps, which are distributed at trade-shows throughout the world, local conferences, sporting events, Visit Florida welcome centers, AAA offices and hotel/attraction brochure racks.
  • The Articulate website, which  highlights the must-see events in arts with corresponding advice from expert bloggers who recommend what events to mark on their calendars.
  • Emeril’s Florida, starring celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, which highlighted several arts attractions, while showcasing St. Pete/Clearwater as a culinary destination.

For a complete rundown of the campaign, click here.

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Dali Unveils Must-See Secret Artwork

Beat the crowds to the Dali: Director Hank Hine sneak-previews a rare Dali work from a private collection that museum officials have yet to unveil. Check it out in this CVBeat exclusive.DSC_1196

CVBeat: Tell us about the highly-coveted piece of artwork your museum got its hands on.

Dali Museum Director Hank Hine: We are going to be presenting this summer an amazing painting by (Salvador) Dali. It’s called “Santiago El Grande” and it’s grand in two ways. First of all, Santiago as the patron saint of Spain was very great, very important to the Spanish people. He liberated the nation of Spain from the Moors. It’s also grand in real dimension. This painting is 13 feet tall—it’s one of Dali’ largest.

CVBeat: How were you able to pull this off with so many museums in the world vying for Dali’s works?

Hank Hine: The Dali in St. Petersburg is that important. Museums are kind of a network, like a family of institutions. And the more prominent they are to that member of the family, the more they do for the public, the more resources they have, the more they can borrow and receive. We negotiated to borrow it from a Canadian institution that owns a private collection.

CVBeat: So, on a worldwide level, Dali is a very sought after artist for special exhibits.  Give us an example of the impact Dali’s artwork does for a museum.

Hank Hine: As a matter of fact we just loaned 14 paintings to Paris to an exhibition that received 890,000 people in a period of three months. So 10,000 people a day were seeing this show.

CVBeat: How large is this painting compared to the others Dali created?

Hank Hine: This is the second largest painting that Dali ever made and I think with the frame it’s just overwhelming. A gold frame and a blue painting—blue sky, blue ocean and this horseman leaping out. And on the neck of the horse, the like forms, the shape of an angel which then recurs through the sky. To see it is to behold the spectacle of Santiago on his horse, almost leaping off the canvass. So it’s a surprising painting, it’s a big painting, a great painting and it’s here only until October.

CVBeat: What would you tell someone who’s already been to the museum in order to convince them to check this new painting out?

Hank Hine: Well, we always have something new at the Dali museum. Right now, we’ll have this summer this painting of Santiago. Immediately, we have 13 paintings from the National Contemporary Art Museum in Spain by Dali. That museum’s called The Reina Sofia and we borrowed 13 of their paintings, which are on view and that’s also for a few months more. If you think you’ve seen it, you’re going to see more.

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#2 Search Engine Can Increase Online Biz?

Sure, Google is the #1 search engine. But #2 might surprise you. Find out what it is (hint: not Yahoo!) and how that answer could directly influence your customers to book online.photo (5)

Watching a web video (even one on YouTube, the second-most popular search engine) could be the reason travelers stay at your hotel. According to a Google/Ipsos 2012 travel report, online video content is gaining momentum. The report states the use of online video content is particularly important during a traveler’s decision-making process.

In all, 21% of leisure travelers and 26% of business travelers rely on videos to book a trip. And almost all of them booked their trips as soon as they finished watching a video related to their search. The report found that travelers watch a mix of user-generated content and professionally-made videos, confirming the importance of tapping into social platforms like YouTube or Vimeo.

Here is what travelers are watching:

  1. 62% Videos from hotels, airlines, cruises, tours, etc.
  2. 58% Trip reviews from experts.
  3. 58% Videos from travel-related channels.
  4. 56% Trip reviews from regular people.
  5. 48% Videos made by regular people.

The same report detailed that 38% of leisure travelers and 57% of business travelers preferred a mobile device against a desktop to access travel information. Those numbers rose by 8% and 25%, respectively, since 2009, indicating a long-term growth trend.

“The biggest misconception marketers have is that mobile devices are only used by people who are already in market,” said Miles Media Vice President Nate Huff, who works with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater’s web team.

Huff emphasized that the latest State of the American Traveler study showed that, among those who use mobile devices for travel planning, 69% do before they visit a destination, compared to 73% who use a mobile device in the destination.

“That means marketers need to be approaching mobile marketing with both ‘inspire’ and ‘inform’ strategies,” Huff said.

But don’t think any presence is better than none. The research showed that an unfriendly user experience on a mobile site will drive customers away. Considering mobile devices are on track to capture nearly one in five travel dollars—a total of $25.8 billion in U.S. mobile travel bookings—establishing a productive mobile site is vital.

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Tribeca Festival Event Draws Star Power for Local Film

Actor-musician Sting and his wife, Trudie, (pictured right) were among the stars at the St. Pete/Clearwater Film Commission’s reception at NYC’s Tribeca Film Festival last weekend to promote the premiere of Sunlight Jr. The independent film, which was shot and produced entirely in St. Pete/Clearwater, stars Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts (pictured left) and Golden Globe-nominee Matt Dillon.

Sunlight Jr. After-Party At The Jane Hotel Sponsored By The St. Pete/Clearwater Film Commission

Sunlight Jr. is the latest on the growing list of recent films shot and produced in St. Pete/Clearwater, including the box-office hits Dolphin Tale, Magic Mike and Spring Breakers.

The resulting publicity from being known as the location for a popular film can increase visitation and create a depth to a destination’s brand that marketing can’t do alone. That’s the motivation behind a recent Visit St. Pete/Clearwater print ad that launched in New York Metro, one of NYC’s most widely-read daily newspapers. The full-page ad, which ran during the Tribeca Film Festival, intersperses shots of the destination with stills from locally-shot movies, tying the two together with a simple headline: “Sunlight. Camera. Action.” 059668_VSCP_NYMetro_Film.indd

The combination of timing, messaging and location made the ad a natural for the NYC market.

“New York is one of our greatest feeder markets, and it’s also one of the world’s film capitals,” said Mary DeLong, account director for BVK, the tourism bureau’s advertising agency of record. “So to have the Tribeca Film Festival taking place at the conclusion of our months-long wintertime marketing campaign made the movie-theme tie-in to the area even stronger,” she said.

“New Yorkers have been looking at buses and subways wrapped with our beach imagery all winter, and now they’re seeing yet another dimension to the area, one they might not have expected. And that’s a good thing for the brand.”

Plus, in NYC and elsewhere, there’s often a certain “cool factor” that plays into the decision making process when visitors decide where to vacation.

“We’ve been working to position the destination as fresh, different and unexpected, so being able to show yet another side gives it a depth and character that other destinations can’t claim,” said VSPC Deputy Director David Downing. “It’s yet another facet that sets us apart from our competitors.”

Recently, Downing hosted a UK journalist who was impressed with the beaches, but was “blown away” by the fact that Magic Mike was shot here.

“He insisted on going to the local bar where the movie exteriors were shot just so he could take a picture for his wife, who was a huge fan of the film,” Downing said. “It really gave him a completely different take on the ‘coolness’ of the area, and that will only play to our advantage.”

But the greatest and most immediate effect of movie tourism comes when people visit specifically because they saw something in a movie. And no movie has a greater power on that level than Dolphin Tale. The Warner Bros. hit, which premiered in 2011, brought a huge spike in visitors to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at the time, and has provided a steady growth in attendance as the movie airs in other outlets, such as in-flight videos and on premium cable channels.

On a recent sunny day Rita Smith , who drove from out-of-state to visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium, confirmed that fact first hand.

“We could have gone anywhere,” she said as she stood in line with her excited grandchildren to buy tickets to the attraction. “But we chose this area just so the grandchildren could meet ‘Winter’. They saw the movie and they just fell in love with her,” she added.

Bottom line: Movies are bringing more than famous actors to St. Pete/Clearwater.

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Area Partners Make Headlines Overseas

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater’s media team works to spread the word about area hotels, attractions and beaches in the international media. Check out some of the latest coverage from around the world.

From the best bargains on the beach and eco-friendly sands, publications in the UK, Ireland and beyond are talking about how great St. Pete/Clearwater area.

Popular blogs, such as the UK’s Travelbite and Isabelle’s Travel Guide, wrote in-depth features on the unexpected enjoyment from the St. Pete/Clearwater area.

“On the last day of my trip, as I sat on the soft white sand of Clearwater Beach, that once enjoyed 768 days of sunshine in a row, I found that my view of the state had completely changed and it incorporated much more than I’d ever expected,” Esme Fox wrote on Travelbite.

UK’s second-most popular online publication, The Guardianand Ireland’s largest daily, Irish Independent, included area partners in their best bargain beach holiday locations lists, including Pier House 60 on Clearwater Beach.

“Stay bang in the middle of the action at Clearwater Beach, one of the liveliest beach resorts on Florida’s West Coast. Pier House 60, named after Clearwater’s famous pier…” The Guardian wrote.

And just last week, the website of Canadian magazine Travel + Escape (170,624 unique monthly visitors) showcased three of St. Pee/Clearwater beaches for its “4 Eco-Friendly Florida Beaches.” Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island and Fort De Soto Park were included.

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New Site Tracks Your Good, Bad & Ugly In One Click

Last week we told you review sites won’t be going away anytime soon. This week we have the lowdown on a new website that allows you to see user comments from a host of different review sites with a single click, saving you the hassle of checking each one individually. It promises a customized solution to a universal problem—but is it right for you?

“I’ve never been so disappointed in a high end property as I have with this one. ”

That’s a local customer review that surely caught the attention of a hotel manager. But, keeping track of customer reviews from online review sites like TripAdvisor, Twitter, Yelp and others can be time consuming. A new online resource, Revinate, is being called a game-changer for helping the hospitality industry control its  online reputation and connect with customers.

Revinate is a software platform that collects and organizes online reviews and social media, putting the information on a dashboard for hotels and restaurants. A survey of more than 2,100 travelers by Forrester Research for TripAdvisor found that a response remains key to a company’s image on online review sites—whether the review is positive or negative—with almost 80% of respondents saying “a good management response to a bad review reassures them” and “a good management response to a good review makes them think highly of the hotel.”

So what’s the cost for the technology? It depends on the property as monthly subscriptions vary based on the size of the hotel and its Average Daily Rate (ADR). A Revinate program is designed exclusively for each property after evaluation of the property’s needs and orientation with the service.

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Will There Be A Dolphin Tale 2?

Find out what’s next for “Winter” the dolphin and whether or not she will have a swan song on the big screen as Clearwater Marine Aquarium director David Yates shares it all with CVBeat.

Fame for Winter the Dolphin isn’t over just yet.

Clip #112-001

David Yates, the Director for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, is currently working on a documentary. This time there won’t be any story lines added by Hollywood. Instead, the film looks into the real life stories about adults and children who’ve had their lives changed by “Winter” the dolphin who lost her tail.

CVBeat sat down with Yates in his former office, which was transformed into Harry Connick Jr.’s office in the Dolphin Tale movie. Dolphin Tale was No. 1 its second week in the box office and literally transformed the Clearwater Marine Aquarium overnight. It has drawn unimaginable numbers of visitors to St. Pete/Clearwater and attendance at CMA has continued to soar since the release of the movie in 2011.

Yates says the movie is now showing on HBO which continues to bring visitors from far away places to see “Winter.”

“A sequel is always a possibility,” Yates said. “A television series could be a possibility, so we’re exploring options.”

Since Alcon Entertainment used St. Pete/Clearwater as its main shooting location, other movies have done the same, such as Magic Mike and Spring Breakers.

“Hollywood is a very small world and the Alcon Entertainment team who produced the movie with us went back and bragged about how great their experience was,” Yates said.

St. Pete Clearwater Film Commissioner Jennifer Parramore agrees. “People in the film industry talk to one another,” she said. “And when a production company has a great experience in a certain location word definitely gets around, which creates a buzz. This is what we are seeing in the St. Pete/Clearwater area right now—there’s definitely a buzz about this place, and we plan to keep it going.”

Yates and Parramore agree that more incentives from a state level will bring more major movies to the area and will ultimately be a deciding factor on whether or not Dolphin Tale 2 ever makes a splash on the big screen.

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Festival Literally Moved Mountains

Will Clearwater Beach visitors buy into the Sugar Sand Festival? How did it become so big in so little time? CVBeat caught up with event coordinator Lisa Chandler to find out.DSC_1149

CVBeat: This event seemed to come out of nowhere, but already looks like a big hit. How did you come up with the idea?

Lisa Chandler: About 8 years ago, Mark Mason with Team Sandtastic was doing a sculpture out here on Clearwater Beach and he brought back a photo book from a recent trip he made to Cape Town South Africa. At that time, I saw the photos and said one day we are going to produce this on Clearwater Beach and here we are 8 years later bringing our sugar sands to life.

CVBeat: How did you get everyone to buy into the idea of this new festival?

Lisa Chandler: We went out to most of the community businesses and groups and pitched the idea. The concept behind Frenchy’s Sugar Sand Festival is a 10-day beach-wide celebration, celebrating our No. 1 asset, which is our Clearwater Beach Sugar Sands.

CVBeat: How did you get this much sand here in such a short amount of time?

Lisa Chandler: There’s actually 1,000 tons of sugar sand and pretty much since last Thursday the bulldozers started moving the sand. On Friday, Team Sandtastic with its nine sculptors arrived and started doing what’s called a “pound up,” which there was a fire truck out here. The sand was hosed down and the sculpting officially began.

CVBeat: What would you tell visitors to convince them to pay for an event that’s about making sand castles when they can make them for free?

Lisa Chandler: That’s part of the misconception because this event is not about sand castles. This event is about sand sculptures, very artistic displays. These are world-class sand sculptors; there are no molds here. The sand sculptors do every thing free hand and at the end of the day the sand is their canvas.

CVBeat: How will you measure the success of the festival?

Lisa Chandler: The community response has already been overwhelming.  The business community, the tourism community and everybody has gotten on board. It’s a 10-day beach-wide celebration with the goal being for people to actually plan their vacations around this 10-day event.

The Frenchy’s Sugar Sand Festival is taking place on Clearwater Beach from April 19th-28th. Activities range from a sugar sand circus to a grand finale of fireworks over Pier 60. Here’s a complete schedule of events.

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