The Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Holiday Boat Parade were the featured topics of discussion at the Oct. 20 Marina Affairs Committee meeting at the Marina del Rey Hotel.

Beverly Moore, executive director of the convention and visitors bureau, said that the private, nonprofit organization is the official tourism promotion agency for Marina del Rey. It was established in 2001 and contributes to the area’s economic development by selling, marketing, and promoting the Marina as a travel destination.

“We’ve made large strides in the social media effort area in the last couple of years,” Moore told the Marina Affairs group, a committee of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce. “We suffered a devastating quarter-of-a-million dollar loss last year in our funding, which wiped out our leisure and trade advertising for all of 2010.

“We’ve ratcheted up our public relations and media relations efforts to a very high aggressive approach, integrated it with new social media efforts, and that way we’re still getting the kind of coverage and impression and branding out there that we need to do to let people know that Marina del Rey is full of wonderful things to do, wonderful services, restaurants and hotels,” she continued.

Moore said the bureau puts out a series of blogs every month, and they are picked up more quickly on the Internet by other bloggers, who learn about things happening locally or nationally.

She told the audience that the bureau also picks a local “character” and features that person for a month.

“We get great pick-up on that by other viral outlets in cyberspace,” she said. For example, enjoying “National Eat Outside Day in Marina del Rey,” and a feature on Tony Palermo of Tony P’s Dockside Grill Restaurant.

In experimenting with interesting projects on Facebook, Moore said the organization has about 2,000 people who are following regularly on its Facebook page.

“Some people live in and around the Marina, some out-of-state, and some out of the country,” she noted. “What they all have in common is a love and a certain kind of loyalty for the Marina. Maybe they visited here, or fell in love, or wished they could come back here, or would like to move here someday.

“What we’ve been able to do about 500 or 600 times per month is interact with these folks. We’ve built a base, a loyal group of ‘friends,’ who love and care about the Marina. They interact when we post something, or they may have a comment or concern, or ask about something they’ve heard that may or may not be true. We’re responding to all of that.

“At the end of September we became more involved with these fans and built their knowledge about the Marina. We wanted to motivate and incentivize them, so we began a contest, called ‘Hit me with your best shot,’ from the old Pat Benatar song from the 1980s. The idea behind it was to target three niche markets – foodies, couples and families,” Moore continued.

“We’ve developed a series of missions that have to be accomplished with any camera. This isn’t a photography quality contest but more of a snapshot contest or a scavenger hunt.

“We have different missions around the Marina, 10 for each market, and the goal is to complete all of the 10 niche missions. We’ve gathered over $5,000 in prizes – hotel giveaways, extravagant meals at Café del Rey, dinner for six at Tony P’s, incredible cruises, wonderful overnight gifts. The top prize in each group is approximately $1,500 to $2,000,” she said.

The deadline to submit all photos was Oct. 27.

Moore also discussed the value of reaching certain demographics through Facebook.

She said the bureau still does a lot of traditional outreach to travel, boating, and recreational agencies and magazines to pitch them on what Marina del Rey has to offer, such as changes in developments, new docks, new restaurants, and new amenities in the community. Moore noted that the bureau has also been featured in some of these magazines.

“Since January, we’ve had about 30 placements reaching approximately 15 million readers, worth about $330,000 in equivalent advertising value,” Moore noted. “That doesn’t mean public relations is free; we still spend close to $75,000 to $80,000 per year in pushing these kind of efforts, but the return seems to be quite good.

“The most important mission that the Convention and Visitors Bureau has is to promote tourism. Part of our efforts are also to act as a conscience and an advocate for things in the community that may need to be improved or overhauled so that residents and visitors can come to the community and visit the community in a way where the infrastructure is friendly to visitors.”

Moore explained that one issue the bureau is working on is how to make the Marina more pedestrian-friendly and easier to navigate from one part of the community to another. “It’s really a matter of looking at existing conditions, finding out why they exist, finding the pros and cons, and negotiating compromises,” said Moore.

Information, www.visitmarinadelrey.com/.

48TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY BOAT PARADE –

Cindy Williams, president of the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade, told the audience that the theme of the 48th annual parade is “A Rock- N- Roll Christmas.” The parade will be held on Saturday, Dec. 11, with fireworks scheduled at 5:55 p.m. and the start of the parade at 6 p.m., rain or shine.

Williams said that the first boat parade circled the main basin in 1963. There were just 100 boats in the Marina at the time, 20 of which entered the first parade, and almost no buildings in the area.

A private organization puts on this event, and everyone is an unpaid volunteer, said Williams.

“The Marina is so big, that it’s a beautiful place to hold a parade, and because of the size of the parade, we get a lot of really beautiful boats coming in, including the tall ships. These ships can’t maneuver in the smaller marinas along the coast. Some of the participants include the US Coast Guard and the Marina Sheriff’s station,” Williams said.

“A lot of people own boats that don’t live around here, and it’s a huge event with people coming from all over to participate and view the boat parade because it’s a big family event that’s free to the public. Some families have been coming here for years to watch the parade.”

The boat parade would sometimes begin during the day and continue into the night. Williams explained that boats of all sizes are welcome to participate, and the entrance fee is $25.

She said the parade organizers are trying to put together a prize package for a trip to Cleveland to go to the Hard Rock Café and the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

This year, the partner for the boat parade is Portraits of Hope. This organization works with youths and adults struggling with cancer, catastrophic burns, or serious injuries and helps them paint panels that were attached to the lifeguard stations on county beaches this past summer for the “Summer of Color.”

A recent Marina fundraising cruise raised money for the boat parade and the Portraits of Hope with an auction of the panels.

Williams noted that sponsors are needed for the parade, and due to the county’s budget struggles, the fireworks feature at the start of the parade needs funding to continue this year.

“We want everyone to embrace this by being a sponsor, volunteer, or to be a part of this by entering a boat,” said Williams.

Sponsorship packages include “Presenting” sponsor at $25,000; “Admiral” at $5,000; “Commodore” at $2,500; and “Captain” at $1,250. They offer the Marina del Rey street banner sponsorship program with newly designed banners for branding along Admiralty Way, Via Marina and Fiji Way, installed for a six-week period from Nov. 22 through Jan. 1, 2011.

Additional sponsorship packages are First Mate at $500; Crew at $250; or “Friend” of the parade at $100. All sponsor levels will receive print and Web site acknowledgements, said Williams.

To download an entry form visit online or call (310) 670-7130. Information,

www.mdrboatparade.org/.

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