In an effort to attract new audiences to its waterpark resorts and sites, the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau has launched a $7.2 million marketing campaign this summer.

The promotion was announced in the wake of record- high gas prices and a growth spurt of waterpark resorts in new destination areas such as the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and even greater Chicago.

However, neither are the main reasons for the new marketing campaign, said Melanie Platt-Gibson, marketing director of the Wisconsin Dells-based bureau. The higher gas prices would only add about $20 to a vacation, which is hardly a deterrent in relation to the entire cost of a trip. And competition is a non-issue, she added.

So the campaign?s purpose is to reinforce the Dells? image as a national vacation spot and to help it grow as a convention destination. ?Other areas ... can?t replicate the same type of experiences that visitors can have right here in the Wisconsin Dells,? Platt-Gibson said, noting the natural sandstone rock formation along the Wisconsin River that other destinations lack.

Through focus groups, visitor interviews and online research, the bureau developed a widespread campaign intended to reach as many as 25 million people nationwide via traditional and new marketing channels. Specific targets are the Hispanic market in nearby metropolitan areas and stay-at-home mothers.

The bureau is tapping into new magazines and Web sites read by those audiences. It also redesigned its own Web site to be more user-friendly.