The North has given up.
Battered by repeated snowstorms and below-freezing temperatures, the tourism office in Ithaca, New York, has stopped even trying to attract visitors.
“That’s it. We surrender,” starts the message that began popping up at VisitIthaca.com Sunday night. “Due to this ridiculously stupid winter, Ithaca invites you to visit The Florida Keys this week. Please come back when things thaw out. Really, it’s for the birds here now.”
The words VisitIthaca.com are crossed out at the top of a collection of Florida Keys images that include Dry Tortugas National Park, the Statue of Christ of the Abyss in Key Largo and the Key West lighthouse.
The note (which was NOT paid for by the Florida Keys) ends: “P.S. Send us a postcard.”
Bruce Stoff, director of the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the idea bubbled up last week as a harsh winter grew even more miserable.
“It’s gone beyond sub-freezing temperatures. Now it’s sub-zero temperatures,” he said. Stoff said that when he woke up Monday, the temperature at home was -5, though it had “warmed up to zero” by late morning.
Tourism promoters for the scenic college town, which Stoff described as a “liberal, creative, fun city” started dreaming of cities where they’d rather be, and settled on the kindred spirit of Key West.
Stoff said the destination’s main feeder markets — including Philadelphia, Portland, Maine and Cleveland — are also fed up with the cold and unlikely to book a vacation this week to central New York, even though, he pointed out, “the skiing has never been better.”
“Everyone up here, we’re just done with winter,” Stoff said. He expects to keep the pop-up for a week or so, and maybe generate some attention with the novel approach.
“Honestly, this is a way to stay engaged with our customers in a way that’s kind of fun and a little unexpected,” he said. “God forbid there’s ever honesty in advertising.”
Andy Newman, spokesman for the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, said he couldn’t believe Stoff was serious when he called asking for permission to reproduce a Florida Keys homepage.
“I wish it were my idea,” Newman said.
In a statement, Harold Wheeler, director of the Florida Keys tourism council, called Ithaca’s anti-campaign “unconventional marketing wisdom.”
“I have never ever heard of a destination management office pointing their website’s visitors to another portal,” Wheeler said. “That said, our temperature in the Florida Keys right now is in the low 70s and we certainly appreciate Visit Ithaca highlighting that.”
Meanwhile, Stoff can think of at least one way the Keys can thank him for the free publicity.
“We’re sure hoping for an invitation,” he said.