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Tourism agency adds zip to name

Tampa & Company is a better fit to convey the breadth of offerings, officials say.

By STEVE HUETTEL, Times Staff Writer
Published September 28, 2007


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TAMPA - The people who work at selling Tampa to tourists didn't like their agency's name.

It sounded like a stodgy bureaucracy. It didn't describe all they do, from recruiting movie crews and youth sports teams to selling T-shirts. Besides, Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau wasn't exactly material for a catchy ad campaign.

After a 15-month search, executives Thursday unveiled the new name: Tampa Bay & Company. It conveys the organization's focus on business, said chief executive Paul Catoe. About 70 percent of Hillsborough County's overnight visitors come for meetings and conventions, he said. The name also underscores the importance of tourist spending in the local economy.

"It's been a tough climb for us to let other people know who we are," Catoe told more than 600 people gathered for the agency's annual lunch meeting at Tampa's A La Carte Event Pavilion. "I hope you like it. Or if you don't like it, I hope you'll come to like it."

Some members - most in Tampa's hotel, restaurant or travel business - were a little perplexed over how the name matched the mission.

"It may take some time to get used to," said Daniel Peek of the Plasencia Group, a national hotel broker. He did like the agency's new slogan, "Economic Development Through Tourism."

Tourism marketing agencies nationwide have been dropping the awkward "Convention & Visitors Bureau" label for shorter, more active names. Even the trade group for CVBs changed its name to Destination Marketing Association International in 2005.

Under new executive director D.T. Minich, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau also is working on rebranding with a new name and logo. Details could be released next week when executives present marketing plans for the coming year.

The Tampa research included interviews with focus groups of travelers in Chicago, Boston and Atlanta. A common theme emerged, said Bradley Nix, a corporate branding consultant from Orlando who worked in early stages of the project.

"They thought the people of Tampa were generally nice," he said. "It's a nice town for people who like to meet people." That gave the "& Company" half of the name a double meaning, like good company to be around, Nix said.

The team considered and discarded various "active verb" names now in vogue: Explore Tampa Bay, Experience Tampa Bay, Discover Tampa Bay and, of course, Visit Tampa Bay, which will remain as the agency's Web address.

A brand consultant for more than two decades, Nix says the fact that some people are a little uncomfortable with the new name is a good sign. "If not," he says, "you may be playing it too close to the chest."

Also on Thursday, the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce announced a new campaign aimed at attracting more leisure travel groups.

The effort - called "Visit Clearwater! One Day Is Never Enough!" - will target 150 travel planners in North America who cater to specialty groups such as students, college alumni, reunion attendees and religious organizations. Such groups average 28 travelers and spend an estimated $21,000 per visit, said Ebe Bower, the chamber's vice president for tourism.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

[Last modified September 27, 2007, 23:01:26]


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