|VISIT FLORIDA Wins Inaugural ‘Judges Choice’ in 2014 Mercury Awards|
This week in Louisville, the U.S. Travel Association held its annual Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference. During the event, the winners of the National Council of State Tourism Directors (NCSTD) 2014 Mercury Awards were announced. I am very proud to share that VISIT FLORIDA won the Mercury Award in the Public Relations Campaign category for our Google Street View Trekker project, as well as the new Judges Choice award.
This category was specifically requested by the judges, who put forward the entries from each of their individual program categories to be reviewed by the entire judging panel, resulting in the selection of one as the overall Judges Choice. VISIT FLORIDA is incredibly honored to have received the inaugural Judges Choice award for our first-of-its-kind partnership with Google.
With 825 miles of beaches, Florida is the world’s definitive beach destination. Through a strategic alliance partnership between VISIT FLORIDA and Google, the state with the most miles of beaches in the world and the world’s largest search engine developed a project allowing Florida to become the first in the nation to capture and incorporate images of its beaches into Google Maps. Throughout the four-month odyssey, two-person teams used Google’s Street View Trekker technology to collect nearly 15 million breathtaking images of Florida’s diverse beaches. These images have since become a permanent feature on Google Maps, providing potential visitors around the globe with a highly visual and interactive way to virtually walk Florida’s beaches before they ever leave home. To date, more than 17 million people have taken a virtual walk on our beaches through Google since it launched.
To increase awareness among visitors of the diversity of Florida’s beaches and to seed their interest in the final image product on Google Maps, VISIT FLORIDA’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications staff worked closely with statewide and targeted national media to gain positive coverage as the trekkers moved through the state. VISIT FLORIDA utilized this effort as a way to engage industry Partners in the project and garner media coverage for their local beaches throughout the four months of trekking, including the culminating “Final Mile” event in Miami Beach. Twenty-four Partners from the 34 coastal counties actively participated, sharing in the more than 240 million earned media impressions garnered, including coverage in the Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel and an AP story that was covered in media outlets across the country.
VISIT FLORIDA has since developed our Florida Beach Finder, a new online tool that allows visitors to “tune” their beach personality preferences and virtually walk along their chosen beach using the immersive imagery on Google Maps. The Beach Finder, launched just before the Memorial Day weekend, had more than 52,000 visits and nearly 20,000 beach images viewed in just the first six weeks.
About the Mercury Awards
The Mercury Awards are given to state tourism offices by NCSTD, recognizing members for excellence and creative accomplishment in state destination marketing and promotion, and inspiring the continued development of exciting destination marketing and promotional programs through showcasing outstanding work. The awards were presented in twelve program categories, plus the Judges Choice and State Tourism Director of the Year. This year, the awards were judged by JWT, an internationally recognized marketing and communications firm, who offered a unique perspective having been chosen to help develop Brand USA’s national tourism promotion strategy.
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