Just outside of Orlando, Florida, is a tiny community called Eatonville. Although overshadowed by its more well-known neighbors, Disney World and Universal Studios, Eatonville has a rich cultural heritage that sets it apart from other places. When the forces of urban growth threatened to destroy Eatonville's small-town character, a group of citizens responded by creating a festival that celebrated the life of Zora Neale Hurston, a former resident and famed early 20th century writer, folklorist and anthropologist. In the ten years since the festival was launched, visitors now come to Eatonville specifically for the festival, which generates some $3 million in tourist spending in Orange County. Needless to say, town leaders learned quickly that it was better to invest in culture than undermine it with unwise development.
Culturally Florida is an unprecedented cultural tourism marketing campaign to promote the state's cultural destinations.
The story of Eatonville illustrates how cultural assets not only contribute to the bottom line, but also provide the strong sense of identity that distinguishes a community. Eatonville and the hundreds of other cultural gems throughout the state offer another kind of Florida experience, beyond the more familiar image of beautiful beaches and theme parks. That experience is fueling a growing trend in tourism. According to a study conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America, 92 million Americans enjoy a cultural or historical activity while on a trip or vacation. What is most significant to tourism officials is that cultural tourists spend more than the average tourist because they stay longer. Cultural tourists spend an average of $349 each while visiting Florida, compared to $291 spent by other tourists. Wanting to capture more of these audiences in Florida, the state's official tourism promotion agency, Visit Florida, partnered with state and local leaders to market the Sunshine State's cultural and historical offerings.
Capitalizing on the "Other" Florida
In October 2001, Visit Florida launched an unprecedented cultural tourism marketing campaign called Culturally Florida, a joint project with the Florida Department of State/Division of Cultural Affairs and American Express. Designed to promote the state's cultural destinations, as well as increase visibility, visitation and tourist revenue, the campaign was specifically aimed at new and repeat travelers nationwide who prefer arts and cultural experiences.
The Culturally Florida project involved two years of intensive collaboration among state and local leaders in culture and tourism, including Florida's local arts agencies and convention and visitors bureaus. Among the results of this collaboration were a 120-page guidebook of photos and maps, and a Web component.
Both guidebook and website tell the story of Florida's many cultures, history and architecture. It is a journey from the present to an earlier time, a place of cattle ranches, orange groves and rural towns spread amidst a landscape of forests, rivers and lakes. The stories are organized into eight themes: Florida Performs, Art to Architecture, Florida through Time, Lift Ev'ry Voice, Celebrating Diversity, Science and Discovery, Off the Beaten Path, and Florida Pop. Each of these themes reveals a Florida little-known to most visitors, such as the contributions of African-Americans chronicled in Lift Ev'ry Voice, and the small-town experience described in Off the Beaten Path.
Built into the campaign was a way to measure success, using a database of American Express cardholders to track responses to a direct mail solicitation. The database also gave the campaign organizers the ability to analyze spending at the organizations and events highlighted by the promotion effort. Tracking results indicate that the cultural tourism initiative was a great success. According to Visit Florida, total expenditures to date from American Express cards (Florida only) exceed $46 million. Additionally, the direct mail response rate of individuals requesting more information about cultural activities in Florida was 59 percent, which far outstrips the typical direct mail response rate of 10 percent.
"The Culturally Florida campaign has been a true success story in many ways," says JuDee Pettijohn, director of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. "This public-private partnership directly exemplifies how the arts are good for business. In addition to our wonderful beaches and entertainment industries, the campaign shows how the arts in Florida are an equally important tourism draw."
The website and guidebook provide visitors with a glimpse of Florida's undiscovered places. An excerpt from Lift Ev'ry Voice:
"Most important to Central Florida's black history is the community of Eatonville. Established in 1887, it is the oldest incorporated African-American community in the U.S. and one of the few remaining of the more than 100 black towns founded in the U.S. between 1865 and 1900. In 1889, the residents built the Hungerford School, patterned after the Tuskegee Institute. It attracted many black teachers to the community, making Eatonville an important educational and cultural center for African-Americans in Central Florida."
For More Information
Florida Department of State
Division of Cultural Affairs
Phone: 850-487-2980, ext. 120