ORLANDO — Now at the start of the summer tourist season, Nigel Worrall noted, Central Florida’s vacation home industry appears to be on track for another successful year.
And that’s been true, he added, even as the entire tourism industry took a hit when the national recession began in 2008. Even as consumers gripped their wallets, the vacation home market continued to attract families seeking more room than a hotel could offer during their Orlando area vacation.
“It is one industry that has grown, even with the recession,” said Worrall, who runs Florida Leisure Vacation Homes.
But even as the industry — made up of property managements who oversee fully furnished homes in luxury resorts, rented to tourists and travelers on a short-term basis — continues to expand, there’s always room for improvement, including a stronger marketing strategy, said Worrall.
“We do want to do something so that we can do better,” he said.
Worrall is the vice-president of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Manager’s Association, the trade group representing property managers who operate the many vacation homes available to rent in this region. This is a particularly fast-growing market in Lake, Osceola and Polk counties, and has been for more than a decade. These homes offer families the option of spending their vacation in a fully furnished home with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area, game room and private pool. The association held its monthly meeting on Thursday morning at Fun Spot on International Drive.
Now the CFVRMA is planning a major advertising buy — one that the members hope will significantly expand the industry’s recognition among vacation travelers.
“We have to work better together, so we need a marketing plan,” Worrall said.
Working in conjunction with the agency Experience Kissimmee — which works to promote everything in the Kissimmee area — the CFVRMA is running an advertisement in AARP Magazine. “Stay in the Heart of Orlando’s attractions in your own private vacation home,” the ad will read, in magazines distributed in the Midatlantic and Southeastern regions of the nation. It will appear in AARP Magazine’s August/September edition.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for people age 50 and over, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of its members as they age. AARP provides a wide range of benefits, including receiving the bimonthly “AARP Magazine,” which addresses the needs and concerns of the 50-plus population. The magazine, published 11 times a year, covers a range of topics, including health, finance and leisure.
Worrall said this ad for the vacation home industry is “targeted to the affluent boomer market,” or the Baby Boomer generation, born between the years 1946 and 1964, and still a very active part of the leisure travel market.
“We’ve agreed to run a half-page advert,” Worrall said. “We’ve honed in on the Baby Boomers. There are 32 million people who fit the demographic we want to attract, and we know AARP is where you need to be.”
The ad will cost $100,000, and will be financed by Experience Kissimmee.
An Flamand, president of the CFVRMA, said that shows Osceola County’s tourism leaders are recognizing the important role that the vacation home industry plays in the economy today.
“We’re very excited that Experience Kissimmee was open to listening to us, and this is a big to-do for our industry,” said Flamand, who runs USA Vacation Homes & Spa in Davenport. “It opens the door for better results, for sure.”
Worrall agreed, saying until this year, agencies like the Kissimmee/Osceola County Convention and Visitors Bureau did not promote the vacation home industry as aggressively as area hotels and other attractions.
“The one thing that they have not marketed until now, or done very limited marketing on, has been with our industry,” he said.
Since meeting with CVB officials last December, Worrall said, that’s changed. And the CFVRMA has since been developing a stronger marketing strategy to target the audience they feel will be most receptive to the idea of staying in a vacation home close to the theme parks.
“We knew that we wanted to target a more affluent traveler,” he said. “It’s time to change the overall demographics in the county, and we need to lead the charge on that.”
As part of this campaign, CFVRMA is also establishing an 800 number that people can call to get information on the vacation home industry, and an improved web site.
“The first thing we need to do on the web site is sell why people should come to this area,” Worrall said.
Allan Oakley, marketing director of Alexander Holiday Homes and member of the CFVRMA, pointed out that a lot of vacation homes are in Polk County as well.
“Since Experience Kissimmee is flipping the bill, can we only advertise Osceola homes?” he asked.
Worrall said the CFVRMA is also working with tourism officials in Polk County on a marketing strategy as well.
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