State Kicks in Nearly $5 Million to Keep Tourism Afloat During Hurricane Season

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Florida’s tourism industry is still smarting from last year’s devastating hurricanes, but the state is hoping an influx of cash will lure visitors and conventioneers back.

Gov. Jeb Bush just approved spending nearly $5 million to counter all the negative publicity from the storms. Tourism officials hope the investment will save billions of dollars of business.

Florida’s tourism agency Visit Florida is about to kick off an aggressive campaign to counter images like the devastation from last summer’s hurricanes.

Chief Marketing Officer Dale Brill says conventions are the big concern, with possible hurricane cancellations costing millions in lost business.

“What we want them to do is reschedule and stay in Florida. I don’t want them going to Arizona, I don’t want them going to Texas, I don’t want them going to Las Vegas, I want them to stay in Florida.

So with a sign-off this week from the governor, “Visit Florida” will spend at least $4.75 million on advertising and a first-of-its kind program called a Weather Warrantee.

If a hurricane hits during a convention, the state will reimburse conventioneers for lost registration fees, higher room rates if their event has to be rescheduled, and costs of re-advertising the new dates. Targeted ads will also reach out to reassure families.

Sen. Mike Haridopolis’ district felt the wrath of Frances and Jeanne. He says the new advertising push will be key to keeping Florida’s $52 billion a year tourism industry rolling.

“The good news is, we are open for business and I think as we have this message even further out there, we’ll fill up our convention centers, we’ll fill up our hotels.”

Heavy-duty advertising paid off in a big way for Florida after September 11th. 2003 saw a record 74 million visitors to the Sunshine State.

The sell may be harder this time around, but Florida’s tourism industry can’t afford to sit out a six-month-long hurricane season.

Businesses within Florida’s tourism industry are expected to match the budget allotment for marketing this spring. In the meantime, Visit Florida just unveiled its new website to attract tourists. Log onto www.visitflorida.com.


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