The Florida Keys has a massive public relations job on its hands: Draw travelers back to an area that was hit by a major hurricane, is recovering and desperately needs the tourism.
To do that, Monroe County’s Tourist Development Council is implementing a novel plan of attack.
In a new video that debuted Tuesday night, on the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in the Keys, the TDC highlights the impact the storm had on the region. Images show Irma barrelling into Key West, the post-storm destruction in the Lower Keys — where the storm hit the hardest — and the region’s official reopening to tourists on Oct. 1.
“This is a very unusual approach because I don’t think any tourism agency out there would show scenes of hurricane damage,” said TDC spokesman Andy Newman. “[But] I think you need to be honest. You have to show them where we started and how we are coming back out of the dark.”
“Coming Out of the Dark,” a 1991 Gloria Stefan song about her near-fatal tour bus accident the previous year, was Newman’s inspiration for the video.
“I was just thinking about ‘Coming Out of the Dark.’ We were without power for a number of days, especially in The Keys, and all of a sudden people were working their butts off and their power was coming back on,” Newman said.
Newman contacted Estefan Enterprises and the singer agreed to allow use of the song for free as a way to help the Keys’ recovery effort, he said. The island chain has also launched a $1 million advertising campaign called ‘We Are 1’, in reference to U.S. Highway 1, designed to attract travelers back to the region.
The new video is part of the TDC’s regular public relations budget, not part of the new $1 million campaign. And to be sure, the Keys’ higher profile TV ads and radio campaign don’t dwell on the devastation or show the images the new video does, which will only be available on the island chain’s social media sites.
This is a very unusual approach because I don’t think any tourism agency out there would show scenes of hurricane damage.
Andy Newman, spokesman for Monroe County’s Tourist Development Council
In Monroe County, tourism is a $2.7 billion industry, accounting for 60 percent of all spending and 54 percent of jobs, according to the TDC. So sending a strong message to would-be tourists is crucial, Newman said.
The video packs a punch, with images of flooded streets in Key West, homes torn to pieces in Big Pine Key and residents coming together to cut through fallen limbs and pass out food post-storm. It also shows recent footage of tourist activities that have reopened since the storm, including diving in Key Largo, flights to Key West and tarpon feeding at Robbie’s in Islamorada.
“There is a significant misperception that the entire Keys are completely devastated,” Newman said.