The Treasure Coast Is Truly Shining Now
Tourism Agencies Team Up for Regional Marketing Efforts

For decades, Treasure Coast locals and visitors alike have observed beachgoers equipped with metal detectors and headphones walking on stretches of the area’s 65-mile coastline and waiting for that special tone indicating precious metal might be buried in the sand. Out comes the sand sifter to see if centuries-old gold, silver or other treasures might be uncovered. And when the seas are calm and the water visibility is good, it’s not unusual to see vessels aptly named Aarrr Booty or Sea Reaper anchored just offshore searching for underwater treasure. These hunters are in the water probing areas around 300+ year old shipwrecks and limestone reefs hoping to catch a glint of shimmer and to uncover millions of dollars’ worth of treasure. After all, it’s happened before. Most think these stories are made up, but on the Treasure Coast, it’s real.

The story of the Treasure Coast began in 1715 when a fleet of Spanish ships loaded with gold, silver, jewels and other treasures anchored just offshore, waiting to make their way back to Spain. This was before The Weather Channel, so little did they know a hurricane was headed right toward them. Most of the ships sank, scattering the treasure onto the ocean floor. To this day, these treasures are still found by lucky beachgoers or divers—giving the region its well-deserved name.

For years, the Treasure Coast tourism DMOs have partnered together, leveraging their budgets and resources to promote the region in shared and/or emerging markets that would otherwise be unattainable. Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties share similar assets such as uncrowded beaches, thousands of acres of land conservation teeming with wildlife, vibrant arts and cultural scenes, fantastic water activities ranging from boating to fishing to kayaking, as well as a fascinating history that speaks to the coast’s unique name. All of these features, along with a laid-back, small town, old Florida atmosphere. It’s perfectly packaged; it just needed to be branded, funded and marketed to travelers that don’t know it exists.

When the DMO leadership learned that VISIT FLORIDA had programs to help develop regional tourism efforts, the Treasure Coast DMOs didn’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity.

“I was listening to the chief marketing officer at a VISIT FLORIDA conference a year and a half ago, and the subject of regional tourism marketing came up. I emailed the CMO the next day asking how and if VISIT FLORIDA could help the Treasure Coast,” says Nerissa Okiye, tourism manager for Martin County.

That’s when the Treasure Coast tourism brand started into development.

“The brand development was an easy process for us,” says Allison McNeal, director of tourism for Indian River County. “The three of us have worked together for years, so we already had a vision; we just didn’t have the resources or the funding to make it happen. VISIT FLORIDA helped make that happen for us, and today we have something we are all very proud of.”

VISIT FLORIDA played and continues to play a critical role in the Treasure Coast’s tourism marketing efforts. After the brand and the first campaign were finalized, the three DMOs received a Regional Marketing Grant from VISIT FLORIDA to introduce the brand to the Atlanta market in May 2019. Palm Beach International Airport, a VISIT FLORIDA partner and the region’s closest commercial airport offering daily nonstop flights from Atlanta, also joined the campaign.

The three Treasure Coast DMOs are optimistic that this cohesive marketing approach will bring more exposure, visitors and economic impact to the area—especially in the low and shoulder season months.

“We recognize how valuable tourism is to our communities and to the quality of life of our residents, so we are working to build a sustainable model that keeps our local businesses successful year-round. We understand what makes the Treasure Coast special, and we know that visitors can have real authentic Florida experiences here … and through our marketing strategy and messaging, we are sharing those stories,” says Charlotte Bireley, director of tourism and marketing for St. Lucie County.