Buy a Bambi.
Some have heard the program slogan around the Fort Myers Beach area, while others may have seen a poster or t-shirt referencing the phrase. Some people are still left in the dark about it.
A Bambi is an Airstream concession travel trailer. The Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce would like to purchase two moveable 16-footers and convert them into informational kiosk-style structures "to get visitor information back on the Beach where it belongs," says Chamber President Bud Nocera. The message has been delivered at the past two Beach Chamber meetings as well as a welcome reception given to Nocera at Diamondhead last week.
"The idea is to have visitor information back where the people are and to provide a service that we believe is much needed," he said. "It's also to provide some real value for the members and the businesses on this Beach."
Nocera stated the visitor information concept was derived when the Beach Chamber Board of Directors developed a strategic plan during a planning retreat last year to create a vision for what the local chamber can be and will be. The idea grew to possessing two visitor information centers at both ends of Estero Island - one near Times Square and one possibly in the Santini Marina Plaza area.
"There is a company over in Texas that takes these Bambis and puts a clamshell opening in them. They usually do that to create a food vendor wagon," he said. "We want to turn them into visitor information centers, have them painted by local artists to make them fun and funky and represent what we are all about on Fort Myers Beach, and also take on the road to promote Fort Myers Beach.
While situated on the Beach, the trailers are projected to be staffed by well-trained volunteers and available for visitors on a daily basis from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The personnel would speak with visitors about Beach-area businesses, including restaurant food, hotel reservations and live music on a daily basis.
"We also would like them to talk about the Mound House and other places they may not see when they are on vacation here. We really want to help visitors get around this Beach and area and to be able to experience all of it," Nocera said. "Imagine accommodations being able to email the availability and rates on a daily basis and having it appear on a big screen TV in front of the visitors as they are standing there."
To make the vision a reality, the Beach Chamber needed to get the approval from the Town of Fort Myers Beach. A recent meeting between Town staff and the chamber president produced positive results.
"The Town attorney found out that there is an ordinance in the zoning regulations that allows a not-for-profit organization to have two mobile visitor information centers on the Beach," Nocera quipped.
Beach Chamber members have begun fundraising to raise at least $60,000 for the endeavor. Raffles have begun and a festival with seafood, live music, an auction, fundraising and sponsorship is in the works.
"We are asking everybody to donate what they can and help us get this accomplished. Hopefully, it will come to fruition," said Nocera. "If you have any really brave ideas, let us know."
Soon, the chamber will launch a website called wwww.buyabambi.com to give people a chance to contribute financially to the cause. The website is expected to be nationwide.
"This will give anybody that has visited Fort Myers Beach or hopes to visit Fort Myers Beach the ability to go online and help us buy a bambi," said Nocera.
The chamber president was hired in June to take the place of departing President John Albion.
Nocera's extensive local experience includes being director of marketing and tourism for the City of Fort Myers from April 1992 to March 1994 as well as executive director of the Lee County Convention and Visitors Bureau, assistant county administrator for economic development and deputy and acting county administrator, all positions from October 1983 to June 1991. He was also chief operating officer then president/CEO of Visit Florida in Tallahassee from March 1997 to May 2009, vice president of community services at The Florida Aquarium, Inc. in Tampa from March 1994 to January 1996, destination marketing consultant at Destination Marketing International in Fort Myers from June 1991 to April 1992 and director of tourism sales at Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau from January 1980 to October 1983.
"It's good to be back in the Fort Myers Beach area and Southwest Florida. It's good to be back in the tourism industry," Nocera said.