New Amazon Series, Life's Rewards, Hopes to Drive Tourism to Florida Beach Towns

It’s no secret that television shows can help put small towns on the map. Fixer Upper turned Waco into a booming vacation destination, while Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill continue to drive melodrama-loving pilgrims to Wilmington, North Carolina. And you know House of Cards had you itching to swing by Gaffney, South Carolina, for a peek at the famous Peachoid water tower.

That level of interest is exactly what the coastal Florida towns of St. Petersburg and Clearwater were hoping for when they commissioned an original, scripted TV series which aired on Amazon Prime last month.

Life’s Rewards tells the tale of an arrogant financier who, after losing all his money, uses travel rewards points to rebuild his life (and perspective) at the glamorous Don CeSar hotel in St. Pete Beach.

The dramedy series, which reportedly cost $1 million to create, consists of eight episodes, each only eight to 14 minutes long. While it does feel a bit like a commercial at times, the storyline manages to win out. And the beautiful actors and settings make for decidedly easy viewing.

“I’m watching something and I’m drawn into the show because of the story line, but also the places I’m seeing in front of me,” Steve Hayes, president of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, told the Associated Press.


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“You start to build, ‘Hey, this looks like a really cool place I want to visit,’ and it’s in the background,” Hayes explained. “It’s not in the front where you want to go through and hit the fast-forward button.”

“Life’s Rewards” is an example of how the coronavirus pandemic is pushing the travel industry to think outside the box. Anxious to refill their coffers, scenic destinations find themselves fighting to attract vacation-starved visitors.

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Odyssey Studios is the local production company behind Life’s Rewards. Director Brianne Maciejowski told the AP that scripted shows are becoming a more popular marketing tool within the travel industry. But pulling it off is a delicate art.

“We don’t want people to feel marketed to,” Maciejowski explained. “We want them to feel lost in the story line and get invested in the characters like any other show on streaming or TV, but we’re providing a positive context for our destination.”  

While it’s too early to know if Life’s Rewards has had a positive impact on tourism to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, a cliffhanger ending left the door open for a second season.

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