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A Brand New Look

When Ivo Raza joined the hospitality industry in 1996 with a history in consumer product marketing, he looked for a how-to book that would guide him through the specifics of marketing a resort. That's when he realized he needed to write his own practical guide for the tourism industry professional. "Heads in Beds: Hospitality and Tourism Marketing" was published this year by Pearson Prentice Hall, a division of Pearson Education. Raza is a Miami resident and founder of Brandhaus marketing agency.

Florida Trend: From your perspective, how does Florida compare with the rest of the world in its tourism marketing efforts?

Ivo Raza: When you speak about Florida tourism, it's really not unified. People do not visit Florida; they visit a specific destination. Many areas of the state are doing a great job in not just bringing tourism but positioning themselves as tourism brands. South Beach is No. 1 in that effort. It's a lifestyle brand. It has a coolness factor to it.

FT: What other areas of Florida do especially well marketing themselves as brands?
"Heads in Beds" author Ivo Raza has handled marketing projects for Allegro Resorts, Schick and Boston Beer's Samuel Adams, among others. His mantra: "Don't out-spend -- out-brand."

Raza: Palm Beach has launched an interesting approach to position itself as an accessible but still stylish and upscale destination. The Keys are an example of a destination that has kept a positioning hugely based on the price they charge. What makes a Cartier a desirable object is not the advertising. The advertising just helps project the brand. It's the fact that it costs 3,000 bucks and people want to have it because it has a certain weight to it, a certain implied quality and a certain reputation that comes with it. Same thing with travel.

FT: Where is there room for improvement in tourism marketing in Florida?

Raza: Diversification is an area that, on an individual property basis, Florida hoteliers could very much improve upon. Hoteliers have a tendency to go after one or two market segments they naturally cater to, and they overlook potentially more profitable smaller segments which may not require as much cost to reach but could be much more profitable on a per-guest basis.

FT: What is the top trend we can look for this year in tourism marketing in Florida?
Ways to focus on added services instead of price cuts:

Offer a special "limited-time" package that creates a sense of urgency and adds value instead of discounting the price.
Offer booking bonuses and incentives to travel agents who send you visitors.
Donate unused inventory to charity, use it to generate interest through familiarization trips, or use it as barter for media advertising.

Raza: An absolute boom in boutique hotels. Now the big chains have discovered the trend and the growth potential in it. We'll see a sort of mass marketization of boutique hotels in the next couple of years. Leisure travel boutique hotels have been very successful, and I think they're going to grow in business travel as well.

FT: How does that trend differ from what other tourism destinations in the USA and the world are doing?

Raza: In Europe it's huge also. In the major cities of Latin America you can see it. Mexico City has opened a few really cool hotels, very architecturally driven. I think it's a worldwide trend. New York has been on the forefront of it. There's now a management group that runs just hotels of that type.

FT: If you could give someone in tourism marketing a single piece of advice right now, what would it be?

Raza: Invest in your brand. Define who that brand is and what it stands for, whom is it for. Curb the discounting, be very careful with the pricing, be very careful with the quality and the levels of service you offer.