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Hot Spots - Florida's Top Tour Stops

A) Panama City: Digital billboards helped Panama City get the word out after the BP oil spill that its beaches were oil-free in 2010. Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau Vice President of Marketing Susan Estler used her iPhone to take a photo of the beach, and then uploaded it to Lamar Outdoor Advertising’s digital system, where it was beamed to billboards across the Southeast — its core market — with the day’s date.

B) St. Augustine: After the BP oil spill, beach-goers headed to St. Johns County, away from the tainted Gulf Coast. Tourism officials reported there was demand for 40,000 more hotel rooms in 2010 than the year before. That tourism bump wasn’t short-lived. Bed-tax collections from October 2011 through May 2012 were up 11%.

C) Orlando: Overnight visitors from Texas to Orlando doubled from 500,000 in 2009 to more than 1 million in 2011.

D) Tampa: Three years ago, a majority of Hillsborough County visitors came by car. Now, 56% of visitors come by air, which makes tourism officials happy because overnight and international visitors spend more money on average. Indeed, while visitation has increased 4% from 2010, spending is up by 6.4%, to $3.4 billion.

E) Naples: What European debt crisis? In the Naples area, 17% more Europeans visited in June 2012 than the year before. And European travel was up by nearly 10% in 2011 from the year prior. Jack Wert, head of the Naples-area tourism organization, says many of these Europeans are German — Air Berlin offers a direct flight from Düsseldorf to Fort Myers.

F) Miami: American Airlines brought 6% more passengers to the Miami area, playing a significant role in the 7.1% increase in air travelers to Miami International Airport in 2011.