TAMPA — You might associate glitzy International Plaza with fashion-forward places like New York, Los Angeles or Milan.
International Plaza has teamed up with PromPeru, the country's tourism commission, on a summer promotion to entice shoppers to travel to Peru.
"We want to get our residents and visitors to think about Peru,'' mall marketing director Nina Mahoney said.
The promotion runs until Aug. 11 and is visible throughout the mall. Most notable is a 3-D floor graphic of Machu Picchu, the famed Inca site high in the Andes mountains, now on display in the lower-level Grand Court. The 12- by- 18-foot artwork was created by Tracy Lee Stum, an American artist known for her 3-D-looking street paintings and chalk art.
Dubbed "Peru: Empire of Hidden Treasures,'' the tourism campaign focuses on the art, music and food of the coastal South American country of about 30 million people. Every Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m., musicians will play Andean music on native instruments and Peruvian artist Patricia Filomeno will give painting demonstrations.
"This is going to bring a lot of awareness about Peru,'' said Filomeno, 36, who lives in Palm Harbor. "Some people here don't even know where Peru is or they think it's all mountains. I'm here to spread the word.''
Juan Carlos Ibarra Schambaher, honorary counsel of Peru for the Central Florida region, said he hopes the campaign promotes tourism between both countries and highlights the need for direct flights from Tampa International Airport to South America. Currently, Orlando is the nearest airport for nonstop flights to the region.
Despite the lack of direct access, South America has long been an important tourist market for the Tampa Bay area. Last year, Hillsborough County had 14.8 million overnight and day visitors, including 2.1 million from outside the United States, according to Visit Tampa Bay.
Among the South American countries, Brazil had the lion's share — 167,124. Peru had 10,455.
For the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, which has a more restrictive visitor count based on overnight hotel stays, the number of guests from Latin America increased to 73,600 last year from 48,100 in 2011. Although still small in number compared with Europe's nearly 1 million visitors, the numbers reflected a 53 percent increase — the biggest boost of any region. Canada, for example, went up 4.7 percent.
The International Plaza promotion is one of just two PromPeru campaigns going on at U.S. malls. The other is at Dolphin Mall in Miami, also owned by Taubman.
Throughout the summer, International's stores and restaurants are offering discounts and freebies to Passport to Savings cardholders. Anyone who spends $150 in one day can show their receipts at the concierge desk to receive a red travel journal embossed with Peru on the cover. Pelagia Trattoria added a special dish to the menu: roasted pork belly served over causa, mashed yellow potato dumpling. It's a favorite in Peru.
Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.