Vermont tries to lure Florida's sunbirds north
By SARAH SCHWEITZER The Boston Globe | May 06,2008
Every winter, the chilled masses of New England flee to Florida, as if drawn by a magnetic force. Vermont is hoping to spark a reverse-migration this year, enticing residents of the Sunshine State with one thing they do not have — a cool summer.
"We want to get the Floridians up here, and out of the heat," said Steve Cook, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.
To that end, some inns and hotels across Vermont are planning to offer Florida residents special package deals — ranging from discounted room rates to complimentary cheese farm tours to gift baskets full to bursting with maple syrup and other locally produced goods.
The effort to lure the so-called sunbirds — a twist on the New England snowbirds who flock to Florida's beaches in the wintertime — is not Vermont's only marketing effort this summer.
An upcoming advertising blitz will promote Vermont in TV ads across the country as gas prices soar and tourism officials everywhere worry about the impact on summer travel.
But special attention is being paid to Floridians.
"This is to let another state know that we are paying attention to them and appreciate them," Cook said.
Florida already is a key market for Vermont, tourism officials said. More residents from Florida make visits to Vermont than from any other non-Northeast state, with the exception of Texas.
In 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, Vermont had an estimated 68,560 visitors from Florida and 71,120 from Texas.
State officials say the nexus between Vermont and Florida is natural since so many New Englanders move to Florida and remain fond of their former region.
The state is touting deals for Floridians on its Web site and has launched a media campaign, hoping newspapers and Web sites will publicize the deals.
Florida tourism officials said they have never targeted Vermont tourists, or those from any other state.
"Our goal is to get visitors from across the nation and around the world," said Jay Schleuning, a spokesman for Visit Florida. "Our deals are all-inclusive, open to anyone who wants to take advantage of them."
Florida has that luxury. The state had 83.6 million visitors in 2005. That year, Vermont had 13.4 million visitors.
The Florida resident promotions come with one rule: To qualify, you must show a Florida driver's license or other proof of residency.
Some 24 inns and hotels are offering the deals for Floridians, but Vermont tourism officials said they are hoping many more of the state's 1,424 lodging establishments will join the effort.
Dora Foschi of the Woodstocker Inn in Woodstock is among the inn owners participating in the promotion.
Florida residents who book a king-bed room for a visit between June 1 and Aug. 31, with prices starting at $175 per night, will be treated to a complimentary package of locally produced goods, including organic soap, bath oil, maple syrup, cheese, and apples.
"This is something special for the Floridians," said Foschi, who said the bulk of her business tends to come from visitors who live in locales within driving range, such as Massachusetts.
She said she has not had any takers on the Florida resident offer.
But she said the promotion is only a week old.