Tourism leaders look to locals to market area as vacation destination

Palm Beach County’s tourism leaders are calling on local residents for help marketing the county as an international vacation destination on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The push is part of a new advertising campaign, dubbed “Friends Trust Friends,” unveiled Monday by Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing arm.

Under the plan, the agency hopes to use social media posts by both locals and out-of-town visitors to convince travelers to book a trip here.

RELATED: Check out Palm Beach County’s most popular selfie spots

The agency pointed to a 2015 Nielsen study that found recommendations from friends are one of the most credible forms of advertising.

“The natural canvas of The Palm Beaches compels many of our visitors to share their experiences online with friends,” said Rich Basen, Discover’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Leisure Sales. “When we see these guests having the time of their life, it is the greatest endorsement we could hope for.”

Travelers interested in visiting Palm Beach County spend close to two hours a day on social media, according to a study commissioned by Discover. Roughly one-third of those travelers pick a vacation destination based on what they have seen on social media, the study found.

Discover is asking residents to help with the campaign by sharing photos and videos of their favorite spots in Palm Beach County using the hashtag #ThePalmBeaches. The agency plans to share those posts on its website and social media channels.

“The Palm Beaches offer an abundance of picture-perfect moments,” said Jorge Pesquera, Discover’s president and CEO. “It’s such a naturally beautiful place, it’s almost like living in a postcard. Our new marketing campaign, ‘Friends Trust Friends,’ will utilize these captured moments to showcase the variety of outdoor adventures, waterfront scenery, stunning architecture, historic sites, trending craft breweries, sporting events, culinary scenes and much more.”

RELATED: Palm Beach County tourism industry on pace for a record-breaking year

Last year, Discover officials launched a “selfie trail” they hope will also encourage out-of-town visitors to promote the area on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter.

The trail features more than 30 of the county’s most photo-worthy spots, including the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue and Pineapple Grove in Delray Beach.

Discover says the project, which includes an interactive map with information about each spot, is the first of its kind in the state. The agency has been working with South Florida-based mom bloggers and other digital influencers in Florida to spread the word about the project.

Discover also hopes to use the map to encourage visitors to travel to spots that may not be well-known. The agency said there are “unlimited” spots where visitors can take selfies around the county, adding that it hopes to add new locations to the map as the project grows.

The new marketing effort come on the heels of a record-breaking year for the county’s tourism industry. Discover estimates that a record 7.2 million tourists visited Palm Beach County last year, breaking 2015’s high of 6.9 million visitors.

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