06 Dec 2012

A United Oceanfront

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Campaign seeks to show travelers that Orange County is more than theme parks – it is home to beaches that rank among the world’s best

SANTA ANA, CA – For much of the past 50 years, as orange groves gave way to development, the world outside Southern California made the geographical connection to Orange County’s 30-plus cities and 42 miles of coastline with one word: Disneyland.

Look 10 or 15 years into the future, as patches of housing give way to urban towers, and the world could call this area “O.C.” just as it calls Los Angeles. “L.A.,” and its coastline could be as chic among travelers as those of Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean.

That’s one vision held by luxury resort hoteliers, shopping developers and golf course owners who have joined forces to market coastal Orange County as “The OCeanfront.”

Orange County has tapped the 16 million people in the region, but The OCeanfront and other tourism groups believe the county can grow its market significantly.

Of the 40-plus million people who visit Orange County yearly, the main draws are the climate, the attractions and the beaches, said Mark Feary, head of the Orange County Tourism Council. But talk to U.S. travelers who don’t frequent the area and “many are unaware that Orange County hits the coast,” Feary said.

The OCeanfront pulls together 10 resorts that normally compete with one another. They’ve agreed that promoting the region boosts business for everyone, Bermingham said.

“The OCeanfront concept has the potential to become a genuine brand,” said Duane Knapp, a branding expert and author of “Destination BrandScience.” “A brand must promise to deliver an experience that makes people feel a certain way, with distinctive emotional and functional benefits,” Knapp said.

That becomes trickier to develop with a destination than a tangible product. “Will visitors leave and say, ‘Oh my, I never had an oceanfront experience like this?” Knapp said. “It’s not just the location, but the feeling. Maybe that’s their next step.”

The OCeanfront marketing strategy begins with exposure to the coastal cities, including the culture and recreation unique to each. That will bring people into a resort, where the staff can build relationships with travelers, said Jeff Johnson, head of marketing at The Montage.

Those relationships will stretch all along the coast.

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