Jim Abbott @JimAbbottwrites
DAYTONA BEACH — Caribbean cruises have emerged as a tough competitor to traditional beach vacations, but that seafaring option could become an asset to area tourism if a new marketing idea in the works by the Daytona Beach Area Convention Visitors Bureau becomes reality.
The visitors bureau is discussing the possibility of marketing beach-cruise packages with Norwegian Cruise Line for passengers sailing out of Port Canaveral. The packages would offer passengers the opportunity to spend several nights before or after a cruise in Daytona Beach, booking stays in area hotels and patronizing area restaurants and attractions, said Evelyn Fine of Mid-Florida Marketing Research, who came up with the idea.
Fine was directed to pursue the plan at the July board of directors meeting of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority, which funds and oversees the visitors bureau. Fine admittedly is a big fan of cruises when it comes to her own vacations, taking several European voyages in a typical year, but the Daytona Beach proposal is based squarely on visitor research, she said.
Among her findings: An increasing number of out-of-state visitors report traveling to Florida to take a cruise and these travelers generally spend a day or longer at some Florida destination before or after setting sail, Fine said.
Additionally, there’s an increase in tourists in the Daytona Beach demographic market electing to skip an occasional Florida beach vacation in favor of a Caribbean cruise, Fine said. For some, as many as one out of every three or four Southern vacations might be a Caribbean cruise, she said.
“The cruise line will be doing the sales of the packages,” Fine said. “The bureau will put together the offerings to include hotels, transportation and activities to do here, including the (Daytona International) Speedway, museums and other options in Daytona Beach.
“This is for people who want to come to Florida and take a cruise, but also want to spend some time on the beach,” Fine said. “What we’re doing is institutionalizing it, putting together a package. Many ships make port in the Canaveral area. Many of those people are not so excited about spending a few hours at Disney World. They’d much rather come here.”
A good fit
“They are a family friendly, contemporary cruise line,” Fine said. “They offer popular and currently trendy themed cruises. NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and Daytona Beach target the same markets as Norwegian Cruise Line.”
Initially, the plan doesn’t involve additional expenses for the visitors bureau or the cruise line outside of previously budgeted marketing funds, said Lori Campbell Baker, the bureau’s executive director.
“We’ll be promoting each other within current budgets,” Baker said.
“The demographics are very similar for those who take Florida beach vacations and Caribbean or Bahama cruises,” Picariello said. “We wanted to leverage that market and offer folks the ability to do a combined trip, take a visit to the Daytona area and pair it with a three- or four-day cruise out of Port Canaveral. There’s definitely an opportunity for folks looking to have a more robust week-plus experience by combining a traditional beach vacation with a cruise.”
In 2018, the company’s Norwegian Sun ship will relocate to Port Canaveral, where it will embark starting in May on all-inclusive four-day summer cruises to Havana, Cuba, and Key West, as well as three-day cruises to the Bahamas, according to a company press release.
‘Market is really global’
The visitors bureau is at work now reaching out to local business partners including hotels, attractions, restaurants and transportation companies to make them aware of the potential opportunity and encourage involvement, Baker said.
“A lot of these people have done the theme parks before,” Picariello said. “Being able to offer a new beach experience or a variety of different experiences in Daytona, whether it’s something involving the Speedway or one of the other attractions, is a win for our customers and a win for us.”
“We now have daily service from New York, Charlotte (North Carolina) and Atlanta, and a lot of people who take cruises come from those destinations,” Fine said. “There would be the opportunity for them to spend one night here pre-cruise or post-cruise or perhaps as many as three or four nights.”
“Our partners include travel agents all over North America,” Picariello said. “We also have many international offices, everywhere from Japan and Australia to Germany and the UK. The potential market is really global.”