KISSIMMEE – In an effort to more aggressively promote Central Florida’s hotels, resorts, timeshares and vacation homes, the leading tourism office in Osceola County has hired a private marketing research firm to collect data on the hospitality industry.
The Kissimmee Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has contracted with Varga Market Research Services Inc., an independent research firm based in Orlando that also provides focus groups, analytical research, and consulting work. The firm’s clientele already includes major attractions and hotels in the region, said Tania Varga-Bigosinski, the president of the firm.
“We’ve had a lot of partners here in Central Florida,” she said.
Central Florida’s hospitality and tourism industries took a hit in 2008 and 2009, as the national recession set in and consumers cut back on their discretionary spending – including on vacations.
But the industry had a much strong year in 2011, with Greater Orlando attracting more than 50 million visitors last year, breaking records.
Varga-Bigosinski said the Kissimmee CVB wants her firm to reach out to anyone in the Osceola County hospitality industry, to find out their occupancy rates, room rates, and average lengths of stay. The information compiled by her firm will be used to help market Osceola County’s tourism industry this year.
“We have worked in the lodging industry over the past 23 years,” Varga-Bigosinski said. “We’re going to be surveying Osceola County’s vacation home and timeshare industry.”
The purpose of the study, she said, isn’t to determine which timeshares or vacation homes are doing better than others. All information gathered by her firm will be kept strictly confidential, she added.
“The performance report is reported in the aggregate,” she said. “No one can see your information. That’s why we’re collecting it, so it remains anonymous.”
But it could prove crucial in the coming year in enabling Osceola County’s tourism officials to find ways to reach out to new visitors, and introduce them to the region’s theme parks and attractions – and to the places available to stay during their vacation.
“The Kissimmee CVB uses this information to do marketing research,” she said.
Kriss Titus, a member of the Kissimmee Tourism Education Association — which is working to convince the Osceola County Commission to invest more money into marketing the tourism industry — said vacation homes and timeshare owners should definitely participate in this survey.
“I think it’s great, because knowledge is power, and when you’re more knowledgeable, you can go to the people making decisions about how that money is to be spent and say ‘Look at this research we have,’ and say ‘Look at the percentage of vacation home and timeshare people participating in this study.’ When you look at that study, it will show we should be putting money into marketing of the tourism industry.”
Marketing truly is crucial, said Mark Miller, the CEO and owner of the Arabian Nights Dinner Show in Kissimmee.
“One of the things in any destination in this market is you have to have critical mass,” Miller said. “You won’t be able to afford to be in our market, because you can’t afford the marketing.
You’ve got to decide where you want to be in the market.”
Varga-Bigosinski met this morning with the members of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the trade group representing small business owners who manage vacation homes in Central Florida, one of the fastest growing aspects of the hospitality and lodging industry, particularly in Osceola and Polk counties. The property managers held its first monthly meeting of the year at Mystic Dunes Resort in Kissimmee.
While outlining the research that her firm will be doing, she asked the members to contact her office and participate in the survey.
“This information will be useful to you in your own marketing campaigns and advertising,” she said. “You’ll see an email or phone call from us over the next month or so about this.”
Colin Young, the outgoing president of the CFVRMA, urged his members to take part in the research.
“I would encourage everyone to provide as much information as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to drive tourism into Central Florida.”
He noted that Osceola County is also making an effort to revitalize U.S. 192, the highway that goes from the Four Corners area past Celebration into Kissimmee and St. Cloud. Once a thriving tourism corridor, this highway has fallen on hard times in recent years, particularly the section closest to Kissimmee, with a rising number of abandoned and vacant businesses along it.
U.S. 192 is also the home to some of the region’s better known vacation home properties and timeshares, Young noted, and he said the entire hospitality industry has a stake in how the corridor fares.
“There are studies for the redevelopment of (U.S.) 192 that is ongoing,” he said. “These meetings are important to our industry.”
To learn more, call Varga-Bigosinski at 407-472-5852 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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