Island pours millions into marketing

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The goal is to be a world-class tourist destination.

To help achieve that, Island leaders are spending big bucks on marketing.

The City Council has agreed unanimously to renew an advertising contract with a marketing firm from San Antonio. Last year, the city spent $2.4 million with the firm. The new contract is for $2.8 million.

“In marketing dollars, that is the most we have ever contracted an outside company to do,” Mayor Barry Patel said.

The agreement is a joint marketing contract between the Atkins Group, the city and SPI Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Officials believe it is money well spent.

“We should be spending every bit of that,” said Keith Arnold, CVB director. “It’s a good investment.”

The marketing is geared to families and events that take place on the Island, which is dependent on leisure travelers, Winter Texans, meetings and conventions and event productions.

Arnold said the marketing investment is all produced by the hotel tax, which is showing the Island is doing well with leisure travel business.

The majority of the increase in spending is to continue to market on the Trip Adviser premium page and in airports and in-flight magazines through December. The strategy is to bring in more Winter Texans and families traveling through the state’s airports.

About 70 percent of the marketing investment is being spent on placement advertisements using print and digital media, Arnold said.

The Island has advertising in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas airports, as well.

Arnold said Austin’s airport does not allow competing destinations to advertise in their airport. But he is in the process of buying outdoor advertising near the airport for people coming and going to see.

The Island also is working with developers at the Atkins Group to create a mobile application for families to use to find more things to do on their road trips to the Island.

“We need to work harder to find things to do on the way here,” Arnold said.

The mobile app is going to be called The Great Country Road Trip.

“Texans love to drive and they don’t like being bored,” he said.

He said the app will have games for different ages and list sights and historic places to see along the way.

“There are a number of things we can do here to try to make it appealing to families, and its going to tie into our website,” Arnold said.

He said the technical network is ready to go, but they are working on the content and the process for updating the app to keep it fresh.

He said they are picking out points of interest and restaurants where users can stop along the way.

The Atkins Group created the city’s current website, branding and advertising look. Arnold said the group also helped create new digital advertising strategies and increased public relations initiatives for stronger convention center bookings and worked to get the Island in many published articles and rankings as a travel destination.

“I find the agency staff to be professional, enthusiastic and energetic for driving new visitors and group business to South Padre Island,” Arnold said.

He said city and convention center had a productive marketing year with the Atkins Group.

He expects to get definitive proof on how the Island’s marketing is doing to help attract visitors to the Island.

“They are going to hit the major markets,” Patel said. “They are known for marketing in Mexico.”