VIDEO: Lee County's new next-generation tourism Web site will launch Tuesday

Video from NBC-2

— A new tourism Web site for Lee County aims to bring the destination to life online.

Members of the county’s Tourist Development Council got their first peek at the site at a monthly meeting Friday.

The site will officially launch Tuesday. It has been in the works for more than eight months.

The current site has been up since 2006. Since then there have been big changes in the way consumers use the Internet and access travel information online. The new site is designed to fit with those changes, said Victoria Simmons, vice president and account supervisor for bvk, the county’s tourism advertising agency.

"The site just needed to be updated to keep pace with technology," she said. "It outgrew the shell that it was in."

Bvk designed the new site, working in partnership with the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and Miles Media.

The bureau invested about $350,000 in the new look. The old site was centered around helping people plan their vacations.

"I think that communicating some of the brand and the beauty of the destination got a little bit lost," Simmons said. "The new site is much more visual. I think it does a better job of representing the breadth of things to do in the destination."

The home page of the new site is designed to be more appealing to consumers who are still deciding whether to visit the destination. There is a gallery of photos to click on for more information. On the right side of the screen is the interactive section where visitors can plan and book their trips.

When the site first opens up, a 12-second video plays, giving a quick overview of the destination. A longer video is also available.

There are links along the bottom of the page that allow quicker access to information for consumers who are familiar with the destination.

"We’ve embraced the future with new technology; and we’ve incorporated social media features to maximize the site’s relevance, including consumer ratings of our content and multiple avenues for sharing that content with friends and family," said Tamara Pigott, the bureau’s executive director, in a statement.

Nearly 1 million consumers visited the bureau’s Web site in 2009. The new site is expected to generate even more traffic. It will be found at www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com.

Rene Affourtit, general manager for West Wind Inn on Sanibel and a member of the county’s Tourist Development Council, said he liked what he saw at the meeting.

"First of all the visuals look great," he said. "You have to update these things every so often. It was time."

He said it looks like the updated site will be easier to maneuver.

"From what I saw today, I’m encouraged that it’s going to be an attractive site and it will put a lot of heads in beds," Affourtit said. "That is what it’s all about isn’t it?"

Rob Wells, another member of the Tourist Development Council, described the layout as drastically different and more functional.

He’s eager to test the site out next week after it launches to see how it really works.

"I think it will do a better job selling the destination," he said.

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