2007 Industry Outlook
Travelers who want new experiences are changing the way Florida destinations need to market themselves.
Spend money to promote Florida tourism. Other states such as California and North Carolina, and even cities including Las Vegas, continue to outpace Florida and its destinations in tourism marketing dollars spent.
Stress the need for affordable housing and public transportation. As housing prices increase, a growing number of hospitality workers can't afford to live near where they work. They need either affordable housing or better transportation options.
Make flood insurance available and affordable. Resorts near beaches and other water bodies that are the most susceptible to damage from storms and hurricanes are keeping an eye on the same skyrocketing insurance costs that are plaguing homeowners.
Improve education in Florida's schools and colleges. The state's public schools and universities could be teaching more about the hospitality industry to train workers for jobs in tourism, especially management positions.
Been There, Done That
Two trends will influence Florida's tourism industry in 2007: Travelers want "bragging rights" about a unique vacation experience, and they love to compare notes with each other over the internet.
Visitors want to swim with dolphins, airboat through the Everglades and kayak on the St. Johns River -- things they can't do anywhere else, says Dale Brill, chief marketing officer for Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency. They want to stay in hotels with distinct personalities, and they want to eat where the locals go.
To find those experiences, they're increasingly consulting sites such as tripadvisor.com and travelpost.com, where consumers post reviews.
"This is just word-of-mouth on steroids," Brill says.
The trends present a challenge for Florida destinations viewed as places where everyone has already been -- one reason consultants advised Orlando last year to reinvent itself as home to more than theme parks.
Miami and Fort Lauderdale are on the right track, industry watchers say. Both are adding features such as five-star destination resorts, and they're using innovative marketing techniques to bring in new visitors.
Fort Lauderdale's Beach on Wheels, for instance, toured chilly Northern cities last winter with a rolling terrarium of bikini-clad models playing in the sand.
The move generated more than $2 million in national media exposure and helped the metro area boost its visitor numbers past the 10-million mark for the first time -- an increase of 3 million over five years earlier, when Fort Lauderdale vowed to erase "spring break" from its vocabulary.
Visitor spending is at a record $8.6 billion.
This month, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau launches coast954, a one-week storefront in Manhattan designed to attract Generation X visitors hungry for a beach vacation.
"This is an incredible marketing opportunity for us," says Nicki Grossman, CVB's president and chairwoman-elect of Visit Florida's board of directors. "Hopefully it will be freezing cold."