Fla. luring tourists back with emergency ad campaign

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The State of Florida will try to ease the worries of hurricane-wary tourists by launching promotions of the destination.

Visit Florida, the public/private corporation that promotes travel to the state, will use special appropriations to finance the campaign.

According to a spokesman, the advertising will not mention the hurricanes. Well just emphasize the aspects that continue to make Florida a desirable destination, he said.

Visit Florida will tap into a $2 million economic-risk fund and will ask the legislation for an additional $30 million.

We have an emergency advertising fund that is always sacrosanct. We only use it when we absolutely have to, said the spokesman. We started tapping into it with Hurricane Charley, and we are going to go ahead and use the rest of it starting now because there are no other storms on the horizon.

The fund will extend into December, or as long as it lasts. Visit Floridas board planned to meet with Gov. Jeb Bush Oct. 4 to ask that he recommend that the legislature appropriate approximately $30 million as marketing intervention.

We want to reassure potential visitors that not all of Florida was impacted, or impacted equally, although we sure have taken a hit, the spokesman said. Were also going to provide a central point of contact for people who have a specific destination they want to find out about.

The full economic impact of the four storms cannot yet be determined, he said.

We have a number of research initiatives underway to help us get that information, he said. We wont know how much tourism revenue Florida is losing per day or per week until the state Department of Revenue provides us with the numbers of tourism spending for August and September.

Without hard numbers, the agency must base its judgments on anecdotal information.

Going back to Labor Day, most of the hotels expected to be half full, but many of them ended up being packed with folks who had been forced to move out of the evacuation zones.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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