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Flush with cash, Florida’s tourism marketers have begun promoting the Sunshine State year-round, an effort considered even more necessary now that Gov. Rick Scott has challenged them to attract 100 million visitors a year as soon as feasible.
Once constrained to marketing the state during the winter months only, when Northern states were blasted by freezing winds, snow and ice, Visit Florida says a near-doubling of state funds in the past two years — combined with co-op money from the state’s tourism businesses — now allows it to pitch potential vacationers winter, spring, summer and fall.
Details of the agency’s fall campaign were revealed Thursday during the Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism, in the Loews Royal Pacific Hotel at Universal Orlando. The fall program hopes to persuade adult travelers without children in tow, from singles and young couples to empty-nesters, to extend their Florida vacations by spending a little more time on beaches and at attractions.
State legislators have sharply boosted the government portion of Visit Florida’s annual budget in recent years, from $35 million in 2011-12 to $54 million in 2012-13 to $63.5 million for the current, 2013-14 fiscal year.
“You don’t want to take a $35 million budget and try to spread it out over four seasons — you just don’t get enough frequency or reach out of it,” said Paul Phipps, Visit Florida’s chief marketing officer. “And so what this budget allows us to do is to really get the kind of penetration that we need in our key markets to continue to grow. ”
Florida drew a record 91.5 million visitors in 2012, according to numbers released this week by Visit Florida, the state’s quasi-private tourism-promotion agency.
The 100-million visitor challenge issued by Scott has been a frequent topic of discussion this week among those attending the governor’s three-day tourism conference, which ends Friday.
Wednesday night, the first-term governor talked about the goal with tourism representatives, reportedly with a tongue-in-cheek mention that it would be nice to hit 100 million visitors next year, as he campaigns for re-election in November 2014.
Visit Florida’s domestic marketing efforts in recent years have ranged from online campaigns urging Floridians to invite friends and relatives to the state to a promotion in which an elevated train in Chicago was converted into a rolling advertisement for the Sunshine State.
While Visit Florida has clearly embraced the 100-million challenge, Phipps noted Thursday at least one pitfall of focusing purely on a giant head count: Not all tourists are created equal.
For instance, Millennials spend less than Baby Boomers, and international tourists stay longer than domestic travelers.
“It isn’t just going and getting more people to come to the state,” he said. “It’s the right people and the right situation.”
(c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.