SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 and landed two of the side boosters at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The Space Coast’s tourism agency is seeking to capitalize on the renewed popularity of viewing rocket launches, as evidenced by this month’s launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy from Kennedy Space Center.
More than 100,000 people came to Brevard County to watch that launch, filling local hotels and restaurants. The crowds reminded many Space Coast residents of the days of the space shuttle program that ended in 2011.
The Space Coast Office of Tourism this month introduced its Launch Console phone app that is available for free in Apple’s App Store. A version for Android phone users is scheduled to come out in early March via Google Play.
The app’s features include a launch schedule, mission details, information on each rocket type, a compass to locate the direction from which each launch will occur and live video streaming.
Tiffany Minton, marketing director for the Office of Tourism, said a later upgrade to the app will include a feature on the best places to watch a launch.
Tourism on the Space Coast has been strong in recent months, as evidenced by the trends in the revenue from Brevard County’s 5 percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals. Revenue from the tax was up 20 percent during the last three months of 2017 — the latest-available figures — compared with figures for the last three months of 2016.
Other local tourism indicators also have been strong, including the average daily rate for a hotel room, the average percentage of rooms occupied and the revenue per available room.
Office of Tourism Finance Director Stacy DeLano said development of the Launch Console phone app by the Orlando-based firm Three21 Creative for iPhone and Android uses, and its additional upgrades, will cost $19,375.
The app has been under development for about nine months, according to Office of Tourism Executive Director Eric Garvey,
“We were looking for ways to enhance the launch viewing experience,” Garvey said.
The Launch Console app was introduced to work in conjunction with focused marketing to attract tourists to the Space Coast to view launches and a dedicated website operated by the Office of Tourism — www.SpaceCoastLaunches.com.
In one Space Coast Office of Tourism ad, which will appear in the March issue of United Airlines’ Hemispheres in-flight magazine, the tourism agency uses this pitch: “With more launches now than ever before, you can see, hear and feel one of the most dramatic events on Earth right on Florida’s Space Coast.”
As many as 35 SpaceX and United Launch Alliance rocket launches are expected this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center.
Space tourism “is hot right now,” following the buzz created by the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, Minton said.
Onboard the powerful rocket’s first test flight were Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster sports car and “Starman,” a mannequin wearing a spacesuit. Musk is chief executive officer of both SpaceX and Tesla.
Space Coast Office of Tourism Deputy Director Bonnie King said the space tourism sector will become even more intense next year, tied to events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 — the first to land astronauts on the moon.
“It’s going to be big,” King said.
Space Florida efforts
Separately, Space Florida has its own “We Are Go Florida” marketing effort to raise awareness of space launch tourism with a “Vacationauts” theme.
Space Florida also has its own “We Are Go Florida Vacationauts” launch viewing app with similar features, such as a launch calendar, mission details, a compass and launch viewing locations. The app has been downloaded about 9,000 times for iOS and Android platforms.
“Part of our job is growing the market” for space tourism, said Dale Ketcham, vice president for government and external relations for Space Florida. “It made sense to go after bringing tourists to the Cape to witness space launches.”
Eventually, Ketcham said, a focus of Space Florida related to space tourism will be on promoting the launching of tourists into space.
Ketcham said Space Florida’s current work is part of an effort to build the foundation for the Space Coast to be the primary site of tourism launch activities.
Garvey said the Office of Tourism is interested in working with Space Florida, as well as with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, to coordinate efforts to attract tourists to the area to watch launches.
“We are very interested in collaborating with them in the future,” Garvey said.
Other tourism efforts
The Space Coast Office of Tourism’s space tourism push is coming in conjunction with several other recent major initiatives designed to attract tourists to the Space Coast — all funded by Brevard County’s 5 percent Tourist Development Tax.
Some of them are:
• Cruise tourism: A campaign promoting cruise tourism, including staying on the Space Coast for one or more days before taking a cruise. The promotion includes a video of the top five reasons to sail out of Port Canaveral this spring and ads with the heading “Wake Up on the Port Side of the Bed.”
DeLano said this multifaceted campaign also includes a digital sweepstakes; a paid print ad and promotional articles in Delta Air Lines’ Sky in-flight magazine; Facebook advertising; and an ad partnership with Sojern, a data-driven marketing company that specializes in the travel sector.
Total spending will total about $150,000.
• Video promotion: Social media “top five” videos on such things at top five tiki bars, top five waterfront dining, and top five craft beers and cocktails.
Atlanta-based Bread n Butter Productions created a total of 23 videos for the Office of Tourism — three longer-form top five videos, five tutorial-style videos and 15 location videos.
Total spending will be $65,000, including production services and a social media push.
• Beach focus: A four-week “Wake Up Beachside” campaign through the travel booking company Expedia targeted to surfers and other beach-goers. Campaign cost: $15,000.
• Fly into Melbourne: A four-week “Fly to MLB” campaign through Expedia aiming to attract travelers to use Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, rather than Orlando International Airport. One ad depicts surfer standing on the beach, holding a surfboard, with the words “Land Closer to Ocean Breeze.” Campaign cost: $13,000.
Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact him at 321-242-3649 or [email protected]