Tourism marketing increasing
When hurricane season is over and the simmering summer heat abates, there’s no nicer place to be in the winter than Florida. Just my humble opinion as a near life-long resident, but there’s a bunch of Canadians and other foreign visitors who agree. This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic is keeping many of them at home and so Florida is cranking up the tourism promotion where it can.
Given that tourism and hospitality is the number one industry in Florida, visitors are important. They spend money, adding to our various sales tax collections. A growing number have bought second homes in recent years, growing our property tax and other revenues. In 2019, 131.4 million visitors came to Florida, including 3.6 million from Canada and 1.5 million from England.
The pandemic has cut-off England altogether, with only air-travel allowed from Canada to Florida. All land-crossings are still prohibited for now, which means Canadians with RV’s who come to Florida every winter to camp at an RV park here are staying home in the cold North instead. But even visitor air travel is down, some say by as much as 25%. Roadways and restaurants, especially in southeastern and southwestern Florida, usually crowded by snowbirds, are noticeably emptier.
Visit Florida, the state’s public-private tourism agency, reported second quarter visitation this year was down 60.5% from the second quarter last year. The agency has been putting out the word that Florida is open. It’s reaching out to Canada and England in its efforts to position Florida as the place to visit once foreign travel is allowed again. The agency recently held a week-long virtual conference with travel agents and tour operators.
In the meantime, as it did after 9-11, Visit Florida is focusing on the drive market – folks who live within an easy automobile drive of the state. It’s expanded a $13 million marketing effort to East Coast markets that are a drive away. It follows a summer campaign after the lockdown ended that targeted Floridians to get out and explore our great state.
The silver lining: the demand is still there for Florida. And travel experts say that pent-up demand will cause a great gush of tourists into the Sunshine State, once pandemic conditions further ease.
LMA Newsletter of 11-9-20