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Laura Gamba, tourism promotions and partner services manager for the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates, made a presentation March 1, when Blue at the Topaz hosted Coffee & Conversation. PHOTO BY BRIAN MCMILLAN
Palm Coast Thursday, Mar. 17, 2011 8 years ago

Strategy: Partnerships bring business

by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Laura Gamba took a group of business leaders to school March 1, at the most recent Coffee and Conversation.

Her presentation, Packaging 101, described ways businesses could join forces and help vacationers’ visits to Flagler County become more economically friendly to the visitors — and therefore more likely to happen.

“What is there to do there?” is a common question Gamba gets in her role as tourism promotions and partner services manager for the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates. Since October 2009, she estimates, the chamber has received about 20 calls per weekday from potential tourists asking for ideas of ways to spend their vacations.

Gamba said packaging several aspects of a vacation in one makes choices easy for customers. For example, a hotel could partner with a restaurant and a kayak tour company and sell it as one package.

According to Gamba, that can encourage tourists to stay in the area longer, increase business for less visible attractions and encourage return visits. In fact, she recommends setting up the return vacation as the customer is checking out.

“Your dentist asks for your next appointment; why shouldn’t you?” she said.

The recent Bike Week is a good example for an event that could lend itself to packaged vacations. Spring break is here, and that could be a good opportunity, she said.

Gamba said prospective visitors often start by asking about pricing levels, then ask how close certain hotels are to the beach. From there, though, she often has the ability to recommend package deals, but she doesn’t typically have many to choose from.

One successful package is with the Flagler Auditorium and the Hilton Garden Inn, she said.

Richard Hamilton, president of the auditorium’s governing board, said discounted tickets to plays are advertised at the Hilton Garden Inn on certain weekends. Then, through the hotel, the auditorium can track how many people take them up on the offer.

Hamilton said the board is thinking of setting up a fan club for the auditorium, which would then partner with other restaurants and businesses to offer discounts for playgoers.

To seek advice or report package deals that might appeal to tourists, e-mail [email protected] or ask for her at 437-0106.



Flagler County’s economy is changing, according to Peggy Heiser, vice president of the Flagler Tourist Development Council and treasurer of the Florida Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus.

“Flagler County is leaning more and more on tourism to drive the economy,” Heiser said at the March 1 Coffee and Conversation event, at Blue at the Topaz.

Heiser hopes Flagler County residents will join in support of legislation that will help tourism by contacting their representatives on Tourism Day, March 22.

The purpose of Tourism Day is to educate the Florida Legislature about the importance of its state’s tourism industry.

“It’s the perfect day to let our lawmakers know just how vital tourism is to our state, and how crucial it is for them to support Florida’s No. 1 industry,” she said.

Heiser will be joined by colleagues from 48 counties Tuesday, March 22, in Tallahassee, to present to legislators and the media issues such as the state tourism marketing budget, the protection and restoration of springs, hotel Internet tax and immigration reform.

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