KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Benefiting from U.S. tourists' reluctance to
travel afar after the terrorist attacks, Florida's arrival numbers
bounced back in the second quarter from heavy post-Sept. 11
To a standing ovation at the 35th Annual Governor's Conference
on Tourism, Gov. Jeb Bush told a record 1,099 industry members that
the visitor count reached an estimated 19.4 million in the
April-through-June period, down only 1.5% from the same time a year
"This is wonderful news for all Floridians," Bush said. "Our
recovery has been nothing short of phenomenal -- and is happening
much more rapidly than anyone predicted."
According to Visit Florida, the public-private partnership that
serves as the state's tourism marketing corporation, the recovery
will continue in the second half of the year and throughout
The upbeat outlook was reflected in the title chosen by the
conference organizers: "From survivin' to thrivin'."
According to an analysis by Wachovia Securities, Florida is
outperforming the nation in recovering from the blow to tourism
following the events of Sept. 11.
Florida officials credited the turnaround, in large part, to an
emergency $20 million infusion of state advertising funds, matched
by more than $25 million in extra private industry spending.
Visit Florida used the funds to launch an emergency advertising
campaign that focused on discounts available in the state in the
aftermath of Sept. 11.
Keynoter William Norman, president of the Travel Industry
Association, hailed Visit Florida for its post-Sept. 11
"leadership," and said it will be the model for a new
private-public marketing organization that TIA seeks on the
Barry Pitegoff, Visit Florida's vice president of research,
said, "The latest figures provide convincing evidence our state's
tourism industry is definitely on the way to full recovery."
He said Florida benefited by the wish of domestic travelers to
remain closer to home.
For example, for the first time in many years most of Florida's
domestic visitors came to the state by car rather than airplane --
50.7% by car vs. 49.3% by air.
Although the head count was nearly back to normal, visitor
spending remains down by more than 5% because of discounting and
shorter trips, reported Visit Florida president Austin Mott.
He added, "The total revenue dollars are coming back, and we
hope to recover before the year is out."
Also lagging are air travel and overseas visits, officials
Although air service returned to Florida more quickly than in
the rest of the country, boardings in June at the state's 14 major
airports still were down 6%.
The number of overseas visitors to Florida, which usually
account for 8% of the total, was off in the second quarter by
nearly 14%. Canadian visits, which account for 3% of the total,
still were down 8.4%
Mott reported that advertising outlays in the fiscal year that
started July 1 will return to normal levels.
About $21 million comes from Visit Florida's share of the
state's car rental surcharge, and of that amount, $11 million will
be used for advertising and $10 million for marketing and
Another $15 million to $18 million is expected to come from
co-op ad partners.