While the Nature Coast moniker has more name recognition, a tourism survey found that the name Hernando County had little if any.
With that in mind, county commissioners in June directed staff to meet with two firms that submitted possible marketing options to increase awareness and promote tourism. Those firms were Jacksonville-based Gold & Associates, and Brooksville-based Business Development Strategies, LLC.
Russ Wetherington, assistant county administrator for general services, said the committee has recommended doing business with both companies. Commissioners unanimously agreed to the arrangement.
Staff will return with a negotiated fee for commissioner approval. Wetherington said a contract with Gold & Associates will not exceed $75,000 and the contract with Business Development Strategies will not exceed $50,000. Funding for both will come out of the Tourism Development Council’s budget.
Tourism officials have said whatever brand that is developed must play to the area’s strengths and make it desirable as a place not only to visit, but to work, play and live.
“It is important to understand our community assets and how they are perceived, who our visitor is today, as well as the visitors we wish to attract, before embarking on the development and implementation of specific marketing strategies,” a memo said.
Tom Barnette, with Business Development Strategies, was accompanied to Tuesday’s commission meeting by a Weeki Wachee mermaid. That fits, he said, with the “Florida Mermaid Trail” brand he is proposing.
“(She) is really representative of what I believe would be a great brand for our county,” Barnette said. “We’re world famous because of Weeki Wachee Springs. That’s a fact.”