Hilton Head area promoted abroad with chamber campaign

gmartin@islandpacket.comMay 29, 2012 

Since April, window shoppers at Harrod's department store in London have encountered a peaceful tableau at odds with the city's surrounding congestion and commotion.

Behind the glass and in front of a large photograph of the Harbour Town lighthouse, two bicycles rest alongside a blanket on a makeshift beach, a picnic basket and seashells nearby.

The scene is part of an effort by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, through its involvement with the S.C. Coastal Coalition, to market the area to customers at the high-end store.

"It's a phenomenal opportunity," said chamber spokeswoman Charlie Clark. "Harrod's is a trusted, upscale brand, not just in London but throughout Europe."

In addition to the window displays, Hilton Head also is promoted as a tourist destination on the store's multi-screen video displays, in its 500,000-circulation publication and even on the sides of its trademark green double-decker buses.

The coalition, which the chamber has been involved with for more than 20 years in partnership with Myrtle Beach and Charleston, markets the state's coastal region to Europe.

"When Europeans visit, they tend to spend more and stay longer," Clark said, adding that visitors from the United Kingdom travel to the area in greater numbers than from any other foreign country besides Canada.

With more than 1 million square feet of selling space in about 330 departments, Harrod's is the largest store in the United Kingdom.

It attracts about 42,000 visitors each day, Clark said.

The chamber spent $50,000 on the Harrod's effort, Clark said, adding that website traffic from the U.K. has increased 36 percent since the promotion began last year.

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