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Beach cities envision a tourist-filled 2010

Consultants for Pinellas County are working with five "visitor experience zones'' to court tourists.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2000


ST. PETE BEACH -- Pinellas County's gulf beach communities are beautiful, friendly, safe, tranquil, clean and full of year-round sunshine, helpful and courteous residents and businesses, interesting activities and great food.

In other words, "Florida's Beach" already is the perfect family vacation and convention destination, according to a special task force charged with defining what the county and its beach communities can do to keep and improve the beaches as a tourist destination during the next 10 years.

Monday, in the second of two all-day meetings moderated by Destination Consultancy Group of Indiana, groups representing beach city and county officials, as well as the hotel and tourism industry, were encouraged to define a vision for the beach communities in 2010.

The consultant group was hired by the County Commission to create an initial assessment of Pinellas County as a tourist destination and then lead community leaders in identifying new tourist "products," research, planning, marketing and promotion strategies, as well as techniques for improving community relations and establishing leadership, partnership and team building.

More than a dozen similar workshops will be held countywide through mid-June. At that point, the consulting group will compile the ideas and write an integrated "visioning" plan as well as individual visioning plans for each identified destination area in the county. The final plan is expected to be completed by late summer.

The consultants have identified five "visitor experience zones": the gulf beaches from St. Pete Beach to Indian Rocks Beach; the south county, including St. Petersburg, Gulfport, South Pasadena, Pinellas Park and Seminole; the midcounty from the Ulmerton Road Gateway to Largo, Clearwater Beach and Dunedin; the Old Tampa Bay area including Safety Harbor, Oldsmar and Brooker Creek; and the Tarpon Springs/Palm Harbor area.

"We want to come up with a real marketing plan, where you want to go for the future," said consultant Don Anderson, who has assisted Los Angeles, the Louisiana "Cajun Coast," and Calgary, Alberta, among other communities in similar visioning efforts.

In Monday's session, beach community leaders identified several problem areas, including an unfocused message; hotel rooms needing updating; failure to communicate activities available in the area; and a lack of activities for children.

Among the solutions suggested were using the Internet to allow tourists to reserve rooms or a meal at restaurants, creating an integrated public transportation system countywide, revitalizing accommodations, improving roadways, improve streetscaping and landscaping, developing more nightlife, improving signs and building a convention center.

Educating Pinellas residents about the importance of tourism to the county's economy was stressed.

"There are groups out there who do not want more tourism," Anderson said. "Let's face it."

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