Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Venice in Search of Its Own 'Brand'

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Venice in Search of Its Own 'Brand'

Article excerpt

TOURISM: Merchants group leads push for marketing effort specific to the city

VENICE -- Although long considered a tourist destination, the city of Venice lacks its own distinctive strategy for reeling in visitors.

It needs a "brand," some business leaders say.

That "brand" could be a short, memorable slogan that defines Venice's uniqueness in the way "Music City" does for Nashville or "the Nation's Oldest City" does for St. Augustine.

The brand could also be associated with a catchy "tagline," such as Las Vegas' often-quoted "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

Visit Sarasota, a tax-supported agency that promotes Sarasota County, includes Venice in its marketing efforts. Yet the city is just one of eight sectors of the county that the agency includes in its countywide strategy.

Venice's Economic Development Advisory Board thinks the city should create its own tourism-related initiative.

It is not recommending the establishment of a city tourism bureau or the spending of city taxes on a lavish publicity campaign.

But its members think the community can come up with a marketing theme that its public and private sectors can jointly use, with the resources they already have (such as their websites), and encourage Visit Sarasota and others in Sarasota County to use on Venice's behalf.

The downtown merchants association Venice MainStreet told the advisory board recently that it will take the lead to get the "branding" effort underway.

Before the advisory board meets again March 19, Kat Quast, director of Venice MainStreet, intends to gather representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the historic preservation group Venice Heritage, the city government and various arts organizations to see what they suggest could be Venice's "brand."

Quast will ask the group a pivotal, initial question: "What kind of tourist do we want?"

Whatever brand and strategy they suggest, the measures must protect the image Venice wants and concentrate on "niche marketing," rather than being overly broad, Quast said. "You can turn into Orlando and International Drive quickly ... There can be such a thing as too much."

They will also discuss whether to have a Visit Venice website, Quast said. …

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