By DOTTY NIST
“Sister branding” has been approved for promotion of visitation to Walton County, with the new branding highlighting Walton County’s offerings away from the beach.
The approval took place at the Oct. 11 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.
Kelli Carter, marketing director for the Walton County Tourism Department, introduced the proposed branding to the county commissioners.
Carter explained that the sister branding would be an addition rather than a replacement for the existing “South Walton” branding that “has years of equity and recognition.”
She discussed that in a 2020 referendum the voters had approved a two-percent tourist development tax that is now being collected on short-term rentals in the area north of the bay. This tax for tourism promotion purposes had previously been collected only south of the bay (at a five-percent rate in that area).
Carter said this voter approval resulted in tourism department staff immersing themselves in finding out everything Walton County has to offer “from the Alabama state line to the Gulf of Mexico,” which is an ongoing effort.
She also explained that research is ongoing on visitors who come to stay in other parts of the county than the beach. “We know that it’s a different visitor than probably the visitor that comes to the beach,” Carter said, adding that beach visitors might also visit other areas of the county if more information was provided to them about the north-of-the-bay area.
“So while this research is being collected,” Carter said, “we understand that…we have a responsibility and an obligation as a tourism department to tell the complete Walton County story authentically, and we want to make sure that the audience knows that…there’s something more to offer than just the beaches.”
Carter reported that the tourism department is now working with more than 20 north-of-the-bay accommodations partners plus more than 60 dining and shopping establishments in that area in order to ensure that information on these businesses is available to visitors and potential visitors.
This promotional effort, known as “Beyond the Beach,” was described by Carter as encompassing “everything that’s not white beach sand and turquoise water.”
She displayed the proposed sister logo for the effort, for which a similar font and similar colors to the well-known “South Walton” brand logo have been used, asking the BCC for their approval in moving forward with actively promoting the “Beyond the Beach” effort using “this icon.”
Walton County Commission Chairman Mike Barker recognized the “hard work” and “good ideas” that had gone into the Beyond the Beach proposal by Carter and her team. ‘It looks awesome,” he said.
District 2 Commissioner Danny Glidewell referenced recent accolades that have been in the news with DeFuniak Springs. “People are discovering our little town,” he observed.
“I think this, this branding effort is going to accentuate what you all are already doing to promote Walton County, and I appreciate your work and effort,” he told Carter.
In public comment, south Walton County resident Barbara Morano also voiced her appreciation, noting that she believed residents were looking forward to seeing the new sister brand together with the trusted “South Walton” brand.
The commissioners approved the new branding effort by unanimous vote.
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