The catchphrase our local Tourist Development Council uses when speaking about numbers of tourists is “heads in beds.” I have always derived a bit of amusement from the phrase, as it seems to describe not only a tourism goal, but also a bloody dismemberment scene in a horror flick. Perhaps the two otherwise divergent ideas could be combined. Imagine the interest in the Keys after Americans on the mainland saw the horrific new motion picture: “Jason’s back, and he’s on vacation in the Keys! Friday the 13th Part XIII – Heads In Beds!!!” (Cue bloodcurdling scream.)
Well, whatever. Those of us who remain here year-round are all too familiar with our ongoing fall slowdown known as the dreaded “off-season” (a horrific concept to the local business owner). Just like our TDC, I’ve been trying to think outside the box and come up with some interesting ideas to help our locals make money during the off-season. Here are a couple of my concepts, although I don’t guarantee that these will actually work.
During the months of September and October, we could market the Keys to those thrill seekers looking for the adventure they never had: “Experience A Real Live Hurricane!! Book ahead to insure your reservation during Peak Hurricane Season in the Fabulous Florida Keys!” Events could include the Greater Marathon Tropical Weather Golf Tournament (played with long metal clubs outdoors during electrical storms), Pin The Eye On The Hurricane contests in local bars, and exciting, lively keynote speeches by Jim Cantore and his phalanx of actual Weather Channel hurricane experts. Of course, we could never guarantee to our visitors that a hurricane would show up during their stay (and let’s hope that this year’s season remains as inactive as it has been!). If they show up in dire need of hot, humid, blustery, windy conditions spinning around a vortex that sucks, however, we could just send them to a local government meeting!
Speaking of drinking (technically, we weren’t, but local government meetings are known to heighten the urge to pound down a few), it comes as no big surprise that liquor companies are advertising relentlessly during the economic slowdown. I’d like to offer a few suggestions, if I could, about how a couple of brands could improve their marketing.
Take Jose Cuervo Gold tequila. Chances are, when you’re drinking Cuervo, you’re in no condition to drive. Therefore, Jose Cuervo could improve their image by sponsoring an anti-drunk driving campaign like this: “If you don’t believe in moderation, please believe in taxis. This message brought to you by Jose Cuervo Gold tequila. Cuervo… if you’ve fallen, and you can’t get up, mission accomplished.”
Then there’s Jagermeister, a vile concoction that I’ve seen people actually order and consume in front of my eyes. The bartender actually charges Jager-drinkers money for the putrid stuff, and surprisingly, people actually pay for it. I’m not sure that any marketing campaign could help convince non-Jagermeister drinkers to try the black potion of death. Maybe this: “Jagermeister – for those times when battery acid is just too weak.” Or, perhaps, “Jagermeister – the perfect beginning to tomorrow’s hangover.” We seem to have strayed far from the original topic, so let’s get back.
Perhaps the most successful of all off-season events could solve the problem of how we can get an actual count of our protected key deer (now so numerous that their habitat has expanded to other islands). I’d call it the Big Pine Key Fall Sportsmen’s Classic. We could market this event in Field & Stream magazine, aiming it at hunters who want a new hunting experience. Once they get here, we issue them paintball rifles and a notebook, and tell them to have at it. Each hunter keeps an accurate log of how many deer they’ve bagged (painted), with already-painted deer presumed “killed.” At the end of the “hunt” (when there are no more unpainted deer), we’ll all have an accurate count of just how many deer there really are…and some really psychedelically colorful bucks and does that will fit right in on Big Pine! I feel certain we could get an adult beverage sponsor for this event… wait! Doesn’t Jagermeister have a deer on the label? Perfect!
John Bartus is a singer/songwriter, City Council member and former Mayor of the City of Marathon, Chamber of Commerce Board Member, and President of the Marathon Rotary Club. John performs Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Friday at the Fire Pit at Hawks Cay, and Saturday at the Key Colony Inn. Join John with the rest of the Monday Nite Madness crew at Sparky’s Landing each Monday, 7 p.m. – www.johnbartus.com.