Fort Lauderdale to Focus on Millennials
by Mimi Kmet /

Since the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) launched its Hello Sunny marketing initiative last year, tourism officials have been busy incorporating that theme into its print, online and broadcast marketing materials.

And, while the GFLCVB targets several markets—including LGBTs, multicultural groups, family reunions, sports fans, meetings and conventions, and incentives—its particular focus this year is millennials, according to Carlos Molinet, CHA, the GFLCVB’s senior vice president.

“We are targeting millennials in a big way, because we see that as a big trend for travel in general,” Molinet said.

“We haven’t been on their radar,” he added, noting that there will be about 98 million millennials in the U.S. by 2015.

Advisory board
With that figure in mind, the bureau is creating a millennial advisory board in conjunction with M. Silver and Associates and Finn Partners. The board will have 10 to 15 millennial members.

The board will be charged with doing research on the best messages for the millennial market, what works and what doesn’t work for these clients, and how the bureau can best communicate with millennials, according Molinet.

The GFLCVB will use that information to develop a new advertising campaign to bring Fort Lauderdale’s Hello Sunny message to millennials.

“They’ll help us validate and either accept or refute the research,” Molinet said of the board. The  GFLCVB plans to have it in place by the fourth quarter of this year.

Capturing the millennial market
According to travel agents, there are numerous opportunities for Fort Lauderdale to capture the millennial market. They see more millennials booking vacations.

“They like south Florida and a lot of them also choose cruise vacations,” said Neal Miller, owner of Neal Miller Travel Company in Atlanta, a Vacation.com agency that books a lot of cruise honeymoons departing from Port Everglades.

“We educate them about Fort Lauderdale and suggest that they arrive three days earlier and relax. Nine times out of 10, clients come back and thank me for that suggestion, and then we plan a Fort Lauderdale vacation the following year.”

Ted Bradpiece, principal at Explorer Travel Services in La Crescenta, Calif., an independent agency, said that at his agency, the millennial market has grown about 15% this year over the same period in 2013.

While many millennials book pre- and post-cruise stays, others are visiting Greater Fort Lauderdale for long weekends and other land-based vacations. “It’s more economical than Miami, but you still have a lot of the same amenities,” Bradpiece said.

Other target markets
The bureau also is enhancing its promotional efforts to other markets.

To boost multicultural sales, it secured the 2015 National Urban League Annual Conference, the country’s preeminent conference for African-Americans.

In the sports tourism segment, the American Tennis Association (ATA) Board named Greater Fort Lauderdale the organization’s permanent home and training facility.

The bureau has also attended global LGBT conferences and started the bidding process for major LGBT associations to consider Greater Fort Lauderdale as a meeting site.

The bureau boasts that it’s the only CVB in the country with a designated employe whose sole responsibility is the LGBT market.

‘Immersion’ events
The GFLCVB will continue to promote Greater Fort Lauderdale — which consists of all 31 municipalities in Broward County—with “branded activation,” or immersion, events in key cities.

That strategy is aimed at strengthening Fort Lauderdale’s brand and driving winter business to the destination, said Molinet.

This year, for example, the bureau staged a flash mob [a group of people who assembly in a public space usually for entertainment or artistic expression] in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and transformed Vanderbilt Hall in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal into a beach.

Social media
Another tactic the bureau is using to attract visitors, especially millennials, is social media. The GFLCVB has 27,000 Twitter followers and more than 200,000 Facebook fans, according to Molinet.

The bureau’s social media sites feature live feeds, “Like” and “Share” links on each page, and a seamless flow of content.

In addition, the GFLCVB’s mobile platform is the fastest-growing segment in travel. Its website is optimized for iPhone, iPad and Droid, with visitor information, GPS mapping and deals

“We’re seeing great growth potential in that segment,” he said.

Agent academy
For the trade, the GFLCVB is developing its first online travel agent academy to enable agents to get certified as Greater Fort Lauderdale specialists.

Certified agents will receive logos identifying them as Greater Fort Lauderdale specialists. They will be able to use these in their collateral materials.

The course will be introduced in the fourth quarter of this year. “We have a good foothold in that market, and this is how we’re taking it to the next level,” Molinet said.

Ongoing promotions
In addition, the bureau is continuing to offer—and enhance—several of its ongoing promotions and marketing tools. Among them:

The 2015 Greater Fort Lauderdale Playbook vacation planning guide, due out in October, will be available in an interactive digital magazine format, which will be downloadable from the bureau’s website.

The Summer Savings Card offering two-for-one deals for 30 area attractions through September, also is available online.

Vacation Like a VIP hotel packages, available through Sept. 30, include value-added perks like a free room upgrade, complimentary valet parking, and a $100 resort credit.

Each package also includes a $25 American Express gift card and a Summer Savings Card, courtesy of the GFLCVB.

The Lauderdale Spa Chic promotion, available Sept. 1 to 30, features dozens of resort spa packages and treatments created specifically for the promotion.

And during Dine Out Lauderdale, about 40 restaurants will offer a $35 prefix dinner menu. The promotion runs from Oct. 1 through Nov. 6.

We are targeting millennials in a big way, because we see that as a big trend for travel in general.

Carlos Molinet, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau