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May 23, 2018


Tourist Tug-of-War

The trick for Florida tourism officials is to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience — over and over again.

Diane Sears | 10/1/2005
Despite four devastating hurricanes in 2004, the number of Florida visitors rose 7% to an all-time high of 79.8 million last year and is on target to hit 80 million this year. Florida tourism generates about $57 billion annually and employs 912,700.

But the state can't rest on its laurels, Gov. Jeb Bush told an audience of 950 in August at the 38th Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism in Fort Lauderdale. Competing for visitors becomes more challenging every year as technology increases people's awareness of choices. Destinations that rely on repeat business have to appear multidimensional.

BEACH DRAW: Visit Florida will highlight eight areas of interest, including beaches."Consumers are seeking things that are authentic and things that speak to their passions," said Dale Brill, chief marketing officer for Visit Florida, the state's official tourism marketing agency. He unveiled a plan for highlighting eight hot areas of interest: Luxury, boating and fishing, outdoors/nature, cultural heritage, romance, families and attractions, beach and golf.
Golf: This year Visit Florida plans to spend $500,000 co-marketing with PGA of America to launch a new half-hour show called "The Florida Golf Experience" on the Golf Channel and to create the Florida Golf Trail, which will feature a handful of some of the state's more than 1,300 courses. PGA figures show the golf industry generates about $4.4 billion in Florida each year, and visitors account for about a third of the rounds played.
Other sports: Florida is promoting its other sports, too -- everything from cycling to pro football to NASCAR. A contest will offer winners private jet transport to each of the state's five college football bowl games. And the state's preparing to host a first-ever world tourism summit that will include birding, hiking and other outdoors activities, Brill said.
Minorities: The state is also boosting its efforts to attract minority travelers -- for the first time officially targeting people with disabilities as well as gays and lesbians. Visit Florida is working with the Florida Black Heritage Trail and with the popular Tom Joyner radio show, which brings hundreds of families to Orlando every Labor Day for a reunion event. It's also continuing to develop new Hispanic initiatives. Conference speaker Dick Thomas, senior vice president of Diversity at Synovate, said 63% of Hispanic Americans still speak Spanish at home, even if they're comfortable with English. For destinations trying to attract that audience, even a simple act such as publishing their websites in both English and Spanish can act as a welcome mat, Thomas said.

Tags: Dining & Travel, Around Florida

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