Visit Florida's focus goes off the beaten path

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla -- Visit Florida plans to promote more off-the-beaten-path travel, according to chief operating officer Bud Nocera.

Nocera, a former travel agent, said the itineraries will provide new ideas for operators to include in their tour offerings.

These itineraries can be found in a new "Worth the Drive" booklet and on Visit Florida's Web site at www.flausa.com.

"Although the traditional assets of climate, beaches and theme parks will always have a place in our marketing strategy, we are aggressively positioning Florida as an incredibly diversified destination, offering many kinds of experiences for visitors to enjoy," he said.

Visit Florida is promoting off-the-beaten-path activities, Above, canoeing on the Wekiva River. "Given the growing popularity of nature-based, historical and cultural tourism, this just makes good sense," he added.

"It encourages more visitors to extend their stays and increases the number of places they visit while in Florida, particularly in places not historically frequented by visitors."

At the Travel South show, March 10 to 14 in New Orleans, Sharon McDonald, group leisure sales representative, and Joyce Stillwell, leisure sales manager, will spread the word about the state's diverse experiences.

Nocera said Visit Florida's Web site was the first state tourism site to include a comprehensive and continuously updated inventory of natural, historical and cultural assets.

Over the next year, he said, the Web site will become more interactive and lifestyle-based, enabling travel agents and consumers alike to book travel according to personal interests and preferred activities.

Nocera said that visitor growth this year and next will result from the effective targeting of nongeographic visitor segments.

"We see growth potential in affluent American travelers, in continuing our targeting of African-American and Hispanic-American travelers and increasing our outreach to travelers who enjoy nature-based activities and small towns as part of their overall trip," he said.

Marketing by lifestyle will play an increasingly important role in Visit Florida's promotional efforts, Nocera added.

"This year, we have done focus groups and surveys to determine the attitudes of resident Floridians toward tourism and surveyed the state's rural counties to help us customize marketing programs [on their behalf]." he said.

"We have offered fams highlighting many of Florida's off-the-beaten-path areas," Nocera noted.

Visit Florida also is introducing tour operators to areas of the state that have not been packaged previously.

For example, it conducted a tour of northwest Florida for a group of U.K. operators in September.

"Visit Florida continues to be proactive in working with operators and supporting their needs. We are very involved in tour operator associations as well as several state bus associations," Nocera said.

For information, call (850) 488-5607 or (888) 6-FLAUSA.

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