Ithaca, N.Y. — A couple from Palmetto, Florida, stayed in Ithaca in late March after seeing the viral joke created by the Ithaca Convention & Visitors’ Bureau about our miserable winter weather.

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Research suggests one outside visitor translates into $350 of local economic impact. The campaign took the visitors’ bureau $400 (mostly for web design and promotion on Facebook). By the logic of Bruce Stoff, director of the visitors’ bureau, that means the joke yielded at least a $300 net gain.

“It’s gratifying,” Stoff says. “To do things off-beat like this, and to have it reach people on an individual level, and that they actually came and included Ithaca in their travels — that’s really gratifying.”

What you get when searching VisitIthaca.com.

Some background, in case you didn’t look at the Internet for all of February: In the depths of the Ithaca winter, the visitors’ bureau website jokingly prompted would-be travelers to go to Key West, Florida, because of this “ridiculously stupid winter.”

Reported on first by the Ithaca Voice, news of the joke spread — to Syracuse.com, to the NY Daily News, then to CNN and, eventually, even to international sites like the BBC and the UK Telegraph. “Ithaca, NY” ended up trending globally on Facebook.

“We took phone calls until we were blue in the face,” Stoff says.

Stoff said that while he was glad to see that the couple came from Florida, this was really an “added bonus” to all the media attention that was the primary purpose of the joke.

That side turned out pretty well, too, he says. According to Stoff, the joke reached a Nielsen broadcast audience of 55 million, created 597 million online impressions on four continents and boosted VisitIthaca.com web traffic by 1,567 percent from the previous year.

See related: Why Ithaca is, by far, a better place to live than the Florida Keys


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.