Experience Kissimmee shows how Kissimmee vacations can “rock”
By Ken Jackson
Brandy White-Johnson hails from Nashville, Tenn., a city big on its country music roots. She isn’t a rock star, but when she and her six-person entourage of family and friends arrived in Kissimmee on Wednesday, they sure felt like it.
Brandy, her husband, Fred, sons Ian and Asa and two family friends were greeted by nearly two dozen sponsors and well-wishers in the Reunion community to start the six-day, five-night Osceola vacation White-Johnson won in Experience Kissimmee’s “Rock Your Vacation” Instagram video contest.
Experience Kissimmee launched the contest as part of its online brand-awareness marketing campaign in order to reach potential travelers nationwide. Experience Kissimmee’s promotions team hosted four Twitter events to further promote the campaign, and said its #RockYourVacation hashtag had 108 million timeline appearances and trended nationally on Feb. 3.
Rock Your Vacation ads were placed in top performing web sites from Jan. 20 through April 20, and fans were encouraged to show how they would “rock” a Kissimmee vacation and post the video to Instagram. The entries were narrowed down to the top 25 semifinalists, from which a finalist group of eight went head-to-head in a bracket-style online vote to choose the grand-prize winner.
“I literally learned Instagram on the fly to promote our video and get people to vote for us,” White-Johnson said.
The prize included five nights in a Reunion rental home provided by All Star Vacation Homes. The home, which rents for about $100 per person per night in the peak season, can host 22 people in its nine bedrooms and six bathrooms. The White-Johnson children like the second-floor amenities the best: Pixar-themed bedrooms with bunk beds, and game room with air hockey and basketball shooting game and 13-seat home theater with super-cushy seats.
“I might sneak out of the bedroom at night and go sleep in the theater,” 11-year-old Ian said.
“I’ve got my choice of like four different beds every night,” young Asa, who will be 9 in less than a month, said.
After picking the Johnsons up from Orlando International Airport in a limousine and delivering them to their red carpet-style welcome, Experience Kissimmee laid out their packed itinerary for the week. It included trips to SeaWorld, Medieval Times, Wild Florida and Gatorland. Ian said he was looking forward most to SeaWorld, and Asa had read up on the zip line at Gatorland and couldn’t wait for that. White-Johnson just wanted to take it all in.
“Honestly, I’m looking forward the most to seeing their faces at the theme parks,” she said, noting that while they’ve taken vacations to see family on the Gulf Coast, the Johnsons have never had an attraction-based trip.
The boys starred in the winning video entry — they showed up Wednesday wearing the “We Will Rock You” shirts they wore in the video — using the tune from the Queen classic and taking a few liberties with the lyrics, with the help of Brandy and her friend.
The boys are big Queen fans, but how do two kids born long after the band broke up become enamored with the late 1970s anthem? Ian put it succinctly.
“I chalk that up to having awesome parents,” he said.
Experience Kissimmee interim Executive Director Tracy Ward served as a host for Wednesday’s party, said his agency wanted to show that the market offers more than modestly-priced hotel and other lodging options.
“We’re trying to include a more integrated approach to marketing Kissimmee,” he said. “We want to show the area is available at different price points, and that we can cater to a more affluent market.
Along with representatives from All Star Vacation Homes and other sponsors, area travel bloggers were invited to Wednesday’s welcome event at the Reunion estate-like home. All Star CEO Steve Trover said the company had sold 18 homes like that one used as vacation getaways this year, representing $30 million worth of real estate.
“We build them, then sell them, then enter into a contract to manage them,” he said.
To view the Johnson’s video, go to http://instagram.com/p/lns-urGjhN/#.