Partnership: Visit Sarasota County and Bradenton Area CVB Celebrate New United Airlines Flight

Visit Sarasota County (VSC) and the Bradenton Area CVB (BACVB) celebrated the inaugural United Airlines nonstop Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) flight on Sunday, October 27. The flight opened many opportunities because of the corporations and associations surrounding Washington Dulles, many of which will now consider Sarasota County and the Bradenton area for meetings.

After welcoming United Airlines Flight 3402 at SRQ, Virginia Haley, president, VSC; Elliott Falcione, executive director, BACVB; and Christian Dorn, marketing program manager, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, led a group of meeting professionals, who arrived on the flight, to Muse at The Ringling for a celebration luncheon and tour. The meeting professionals remained in the area for several days for a familiarization tour of both destinations.

This is a prime example of how VSC and BACVB work with industry partners, whether meeting professionals, airlines, airports, media or each other, to promote the destinations and attract visitors.

“Our destination has recently seen a tremendous expansion of nonstop flights into and out of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, which is quickly growing into one of the best airports in the region, further setting the Bradenton/Sarasota area apart from other beach destinations in the state,” says Falcione. “We are thrilled to see the new United Flight from Dulles, as the D.C. area is historically an important market for destination visitation from leisure travelers, groups and meetings. We know that those who take advantage of the flight (and especially the planners on the inaugural flight) will enjoy the convenience of flying into SRQ and landing minutes from the world-class beaches, dining, arts and more offered in the destination. We look forward to working with VSC, United Airlines, SRQ and IAD on this initiative and hope that it is just the first of many.”

Ellen Thomas, senior meetings sales manager with Visit Sarasota County, adds, “Air access to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport has significantly increased in the last year, with the addition of nearly 40 nonstop flights. This has opened a new era to meeting professionals sourcing Sarasota, to whom convenient group airlift access is a key factor in destination selection. Additionally, the convenient location of SRQ, only five miles from our largest meeting hotels, makes getting to your meeting or incentive location here a breeze.”


Governor Ron DeSantis Announces All-Time Record Six-Month Visitation for Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that Florida welcomed 69.7 million travelers from January 2019 through June 2019, the highest number of visitors during any six months in Florida’s history. This record number represents a 5.2% increase over the same period in 2018 and includes 62.1 million domestic visitors, 5.3 million overseas visitors and 2.4 million Canadian visitors.

“Florida’s economy has grown this year as record amounts of travelers come to Florida to experience everything our beautiful state has to offer,” said Governor DeSantis in an August 15 press release. “The revenue generated by out-of-state visitation has kept taxes low while allowing us to invest in priorities like environmental protection, transportation and education. We will continue to work to make sure that Florida remains the world’s premier vacation destination.”

“Back-to-back record quarters in the first six months of this year demonstrate that the Florida tourism industry has continued to produce results,” said VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young. “VISIT FLORIDA will continue to develop cutting edge marketing programs that highlight our state so that we can attract more visitors, create more jobs and make Florida the world’s number one place to take a vacation. We appreciate Governor DeSantis for his leadership and support for Florida’s iconic tourism industry.”

VISIT FLORIDA estimates 29.6 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in the second quarter of 2019, reflecting a 5.8% increase over the same period last year. Preliminary estimates also show 2.57 million overseas visitors came to Florida in Q2 of 2019, and 946,000 Canadian travelers visited Florida between April 2019 and June 2019, a 1.4% increase compared to the same period in 2018. Total enplanements at Florida’s 19 major airports grew by 5.5%.

The number of hotel rooms sold in Florida during Q2 of 2018 grew by 1.9%, and Florida’s average daily room rate (ADR) increased by 2.0%. Additionally, after receiving updated information for 2018’s visitation numbers, VISIT FLORIDA estimates the state welcomed a total of 127 million visitors during the year, nearly one million more than was previously reported.


Florida DMOs Are Finalists in USTA Destiny Awards

Florida DMOs once again are well represented when it comes to accolades for their outstanding tourism marketing. This year seven Florida campaigns were named finalists in the annual Destiny Awards program sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association.

The Destiny Awards recognize U.S. Travel destination members for excellence and creative accomplishment in destination marketing and promotion at the local and regional level; and foster the development of imaginative and innovative destination marketing promotion programs and activities. The Destiny Awards are open to all DMOs or CVBs that are members of the U.S. Travel Association.

Congratulations to these Florida DMOs that were named finalists for the Destiny Award in the following categories:

Branding and Integrated Marketing Campaign, Budget $5 Million-$10 Million
Visit Panama City Beach – Make It Your Real. FUN. Beach
The objective of this campaign was to market Panama City Beach to a new audience as a year-round destination. The campaign resulted in these year-over-year results: 11.6% increase in TDT (25.1% in March); 15% increase in website use; and 13% increase in mobile engagement. There was a 330% increase in the overall website click-thru rate.
Visit South Walton – Stage of Travel Interactive Campaign
The Visit South Walton Interactive Campaign was designed to reach its target market of affluent leisure travelers, ages 35-64, during all eight stages of travel: inspiration, planning, booking, scheduling, traveling, experiencing, sharing and dreaming. The campaign received 90,779,091 total impressions and 411,725 total clicks.

Digital Campaign
Visit Panama City Beach – Hurricane Michael Recovery Thanksgiving Pivot
Visit Panama City Beach’s digital/social media campaign played a crucial role in Bay County’s recovery after Hurricane Michael, accurately illustrating the storm’s impact on Bay County and encouraging visitors to return to the tourism corridor of Panama City Beach for their winter and spring vacations. The campaign resulted in 85,487,608 impressions and 6,799,660 engagements.

International Marketing
Visit Tampa Bay – Florida’s Most Sunny Escapes
Tampa Bay’s winter campaign immersed London in the destination and positioned Visit Tampa Bay and Bradenton Area CVB apart from all other tourism advertisers in the UK. The Expedia conversion report showed a 9:1 return on ad spend. The future hotel stay report showed a pacing of +14.2% for the next six months. June, July and August were also up—with October seeing the largest increase of 305% year-over-year.

Public Relations Campaign
Visit Tampa Bay – Tampa’s Table: A Culinary Journey Through Tampa Bay
Visit Tampa Bay produced a culinary journal as the centerpiece of a culinary tourism campaign that included media missions, trade events and local retail opportunities. Tampa’s Table is now on its third reprint since its launch less than a year ago. Total media impressions after the book launch was 78.4 million with an PR value of $415,000.

Social Media Campaign
Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB – Vacation Planner Itinerary
This campaign highlighted GFLCVB’s hotel, attraction and restaurant partners. It successfully drove visits to the planner and inspired travel consideration to the destination. The campaign delivered more than 25 million impressions, reached more than 8 million unique people on Facebook and Instagram, produced over 1.3 million link clicks and achieved a 5.5% click-thru rate.
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel – Shore The Love Campaign
This winter campaign targeted couples to take a quiz for the chance to win a romantic getaway. Year-over-year engagements across social media channels increased by 99% in January and February. Paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram reached 444,277 people and garnered 2,273,785 impressions. The February newsletter resulted in 21,038 unique opens, 6,713 unique clicks and had an open rate of 24.6% and a 7.9% click-thru rate.

Learn more about these effective tourism marketing campaigns at:


The Treasure Coast Is Truly Shining Now
Tourism Agencies Team Up for Regional Marketing Efforts

For decades, Treasure Coast locals and visitors alike have observed beachgoers equipped with metal detectors and headphones walking on stretches of the area’s 65-mile coastline and waiting for that special tone indicating precious metal might be buried in the sand. Out comes the sand sifter to see if centuries-old gold, silver or other treasures might be uncovered. And when the seas are calm and the water visibility is good, it’s not unusual to see vessels aptly named Aarrr Booty or Sea Reaper anchored just offshore searching for underwater treasure. These hunters are in the water probing areas around 300+ year old shipwrecks and limestone reefs hoping to catch a glint of shimmer and to uncover millions of dollars’ worth of treasure. After all, it’s happened before. Most think these stories are made up, but on the Treasure Coast, it’s real.

The story of the Treasure Coast began in 1715 when a fleet of Spanish ships loaded with gold, silver, jewels and other treasures anchored just offshore, waiting to make their way back to Spain. This was before The Weather Channel, so little did they know a hurricane was headed right toward them. Most of the ships sank, scattering the treasure onto the ocean floor. To this day, these treasures are still found by lucky beachgoers or divers—giving the region its well-deserved name.

For years, the Treasure Coast tourism DMOs have partnered together, leveraging their budgets and resources to promote the region in shared and/or emerging markets that would otherwise be unattainable. Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties share similar assets such as uncrowded beaches, thousands of acres of land conservation teeming with wildlife, vibrant arts and cultural scenes, fantastic water activities ranging from boating to fishing to kayaking, as well as a fascinating history that speaks to the coast’s unique name. All of these features, along with a laid-back, small town, old Florida atmosphere. It’s perfectly packaged; it just needed to be branded, funded and marketed to travelers that don’t know it exists.

When the DMO leadership learned that VISIT FLORIDA had programs to help develop regional tourism efforts, the Treasure Coast DMOs didn’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity.

“I was listening to the chief marketing officer at a VISIT FLORIDA conference a year and a half ago, and the subject of regional tourism marketing came up. I emailed the CMO the next day asking how and if VISIT FLORIDA could help the Treasure Coast,” says Nerissa Okiye, tourism manager for Martin County.

That’s when the Treasure Coast tourism brand started into development.

“The brand development was an easy process for us,” says Allison McNeal, director of tourism for Indian River County. “The three of us have worked together for years, so we already had a vision; we just didn’t have the resources or the funding to make it happen. VISIT FLORIDA helped make that happen for us, and today we have something we are all very proud of.”

VISIT FLORIDA played and continues to play a critical role in the Treasure Coast’s tourism marketing efforts. After the brand and the first campaign were finalized, the three DMOs received a Regional Marketing Grant from VISIT FLORIDA to introduce the brand to the Atlanta market in May 2019. Palm Beach International Airport, a VISIT FLORIDA partner and the region’s closest commercial airport offering daily nonstop flights from Atlanta, also joined the campaign.

The three Treasure Coast DMOs are optimistic that this cohesive marketing approach will bring more exposure, visitors and economic impact to the area—especially in the low and shoulder season months.

“We recognize how valuable tourism is to our communities and to the quality of life of our residents, so we are working to build a sustainable model that keeps our local businesses successful year-round. We understand what makes the Treasure Coast special, and we know that visitors can have real authentic Florida experiences here … and through our marketing strategy and messaging, we are sharing those stories,” says Charlotte Bireley, director of tourism and marketing for St. Lucie County.


Florida Celebrates 36th Annual National Travel & Tourism Week

The U.S. travel community has celebrated National Travel & Tourism Week the first full week of May since 1984, staging local rallies, hosting events, conducting media outreach and securing proclamations and resolutions from local legislative bodies. Here is a sampling of this year’s events held in Florida:

Greater Miami and the Beaches
Tourism means jobs in Greater Miami and the Beaches … 140.7K to be exact! To kick off NTTW, the Greater Miami CVB hosted its State of the Travel & Tourism Industry Breakfast at the stunning new Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Terminal at PortMiami. President & CEO William D. Talbert III, CDME, provided 300+ attendees with a tourism industry update and announced new 2018 annual visitor numbers, revealing that Greater Miami welcomed a record-breaking 23.3 million total visitors!




Visit Central Florida
Highlighting NTTW, Visit Central Florida visited the gates of LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven on May 7. Armed with coloring books, towels and smiles, the staff greeted visitors, thanking them for their support of tourism. Outreach to tourism professionals included offers to tour Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College, tickets to a Lakeland Flying Tigers game on Hospitality Night and admission to Bok Tower Gardens and Explorations V Children’s Museum.




Visit St. Pete/Clearwater
To celebrate NTTW and the value of tourism, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater hosted a “We Love Visitors!” Travel Rally at St. Pete/Clearwater International Airport (PIE) on May 8. VSPC welcomed more than 1,200 arriving passengers with a baggage claim activation showcasing the destination’s award-winning beaches, arts & culture, and craft beer (aka the Gulp Coast) alongside area chambers of commerce and local businesses, including 3 Daughters and Clearwater Marine Aquarium.




Visit Orlando
Visit Orlando marked NTTW with a proclamation from Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County and a luncheon where industry and community leaders celebrated the destination’s record 75 million visitors in 2018. On May 13, Visit Orlando President & CEO George Aguel joined CFHLA President & CEO Rich Maladecki at Orlando City Hall to receive a proclamation from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Tourism generates upward of $70 billion in annual economic impact and supports 41% of the region’s workforce.





Discover The Palm Beaches
Discover The Palm Beaches hosted more than 100 industry representatives from the travel and tourism community to celebrate Travel Rally Day at the Royal Poinciana Plaza. Palm Beach Outlets was awarded the 28th annual Providencia Award, and the David Burke Partner Awards recognized Eau Palm Beach in the accommodations category, as well as Manatee Lagoon in the non-accommodations category.





Volusia County
Volusia County leaders came together on May 8 to celebrate tourism and record-breaking economic impact. The free event, presented by the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, featured a speaker panel that included the area’s three tourism bureaus—Lori Campbell Baker with Daytona Beach, Debbie Meihls with New Smyrna Beach and Georgia Turner with West Volusia. Last year, Volusia County benefited from a record-breaking $6.1 billion spent in local businesses by 10.2 million overnight visitors. Tourism generated an estimated 55,900 jobs overall with a $745+ million payroll.



Bradenton Area CVB
On May 3, the Bradenton Area CVB hosted its annual NTTW event, during which it celebrated the destination’s successes from 2018 and honored two industry leaders with its Champions in Tourism Awards. Board director for Sarasota-Manatee Originals Liza Kubik and Manatee Performing Arts Center CEO Janene Ameck received awards for their leadership and on-going support of tourism efforts and initiatives. The event took place onboard the Anna Maria Princess paddle wheel boat.





Visit Pensacola
Visit Pensacola celebrated why travel matters during NTTW. Some of the successes highlighting the week are the 2018 numbers including visitors to the area (2.3 million), visitor spending ($840 million) and taxes paid by visitors ($23 million). Events included the hospitality Olympics with a record-breaking 14 teams, an awards luncheon, a marketing workshop and a Tourism Gives Back day, where the industry came together to develop 1,500 Pensacola Experience bags for underserved youth in Escambia County.





Visit Gainesville/Alachua County
Visit Gainesville/Alachua County launched the NTTW celebration by proclaiming May 5-11 Tourism Week in Alachua County. Stakeholders attended a Toast to Tourists following the announcement. Hundreds of visitors and locals shared What’s Good about the area on social media and were thanked with daily giveaways. Driving home why travel matters, an editorial promoting a tourist state of mind and highlighting the economic impact of tourism appeared in the Gainesville Sun.





Visit Sarasota County
VSC celebrated its annual NTTW Awards Luncheon where it announced the Sarasota County Tourism & Hospitality Voice of Sarasota recipient, Jeanne Dubi, and the five Faces of Travel recipients. These industry-nominated awards are given each year to those in the community who exhibit excellence in five categories: Management, Frontline, Heart of the House, Volunteer and Rising Star. VSC also shared a video with attendees about why travel matters, featuring local business owners. #TravelMatters





Experience Kissimmee
To celebrate NTTW, the Experience Kissimmee team created a video for Kissimmee’s travel and tourism industry community. The video showcases four individuals sharing their unique stories and why the tourism industry is so important to them. Additionally, the video highlights the economic impact that the tourism industry brings to Osceola County, generating 45,000 tourism-supported jobs.





Lee County
Lee County’s Travel Rally celebrates the end of season and NTTW. On May 1, at Lakes Regional Park, 1,500 attendees took part in this free event, vying for trophies in tourism team races against fellow hotel properties, attractions and restaurants. The Travel Fair and Kidz Korner included 65 exhibitors and local businesses. In Lee County, nearly 5 million visitors spent more than $3 billion annually last year. More than 58,000 jobs—21% of Lee County’s employment or one in five jobs—are due to tourism.




Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB
The Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB has been full steam ahead for NTTW. With the goal of improving communications between the tourism entity and its destination partners, the VCB created a partners-only Facebook page where Charlotte County business owners can stay connected and up-to-date on the latest industry news and media opportunities. To accompany the Facebook page, a brochure highlighting the benefits of working with the VCB including editorial coverage, co-op advertising and group RFPs was created. Over Tourism Week, the VCB distributed branded candy bags to partners alerting them of the new platform.



Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB
Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB celebrated with its annual State of Tourism presentation, and the CVB Communications team streamed destination experiences via Facebook Live. Followers went along for an Everglades airboat ride, the public debut of two adorable clouded leopard kittens born at Naples Zoo, healthy sips and bites at the new Wellness Wednesday Happy Hour at Edgewater Beach Hotel and a live look at the sunset from Naples Beach.





Visit Jacksonville
Visit Jacksonville marked the week with a unique social media awareness campaign featuring the positive effects of travel and tourism in Jacksonville. Of note: 56,320 Jacksonville residents are leisure and hospitality employees; Jacksonville welcomes more than 22 million out-of-town guests annually, almost 11 million of which are overnight guests; and direct spending by overnight guests is approximately $1.5 billion annually. Visit Jacksonville is proud to promote the city and the fantastic work of the local tourism businesses and attractions.





Visit Tampa Bay
VISIT FLORIDA President & CEO Dana Young was a featured speaker at Visit Tampa Bay’s annual NTTW luncheon on May 7. Young, who lives in Tampa, joined Visit Tampa Bay President & CEO Santiago C. Corrada to present the Laxer Awards, which honor frontline employees in the local tourism industry. At the same luncheon, John McKibbon, chairman of Tampa-based McKibbon Hospitality, was named 2019 Gonzmart Family Tourism Ambassador of the Year.




Florida’s Historic Coast
During NTTW, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB hosted a Celebration of Travel: Then and Now, which took the local tourism industry on a journey back in time to celebrate the community’s accomplishments and ventured forward with presentations by Destination Analysts, NetWeave and Camelo Communication about what is ahead as the area grows as a thriving tourist destination. Ed Swift III of Historic Tours of America was the keynote speaker, and local high school and college hospitality educators were awarded the Tourism Impact Awards.






Amelia Island CVB
The Amelia Island CVB used NTTW to educate residents and other stakeholders on the importance of tourism in Nassau County. The AICVB produced a 5-minute video on the value of tourism, submitted a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and conducted industry briefing meetings. It also created and published an infographic to better illustrate the many ways tourism positively impacts life in Nassau County.



Visit South Walton
As part of NTTW, Visit South Walton offered several free educational classes for partners, presented an update on the state of tourism in Walton County and sponsored the Walton County Chamber of Commerce’s Power of Business Lunch where the keynote address “Crafting Walton County’s 3-Year Strategic Plan Through Community Input” helped to paint a picture of the roadmap Walton County tourism leaders will follow into the future. Video of the education classes are being made available for those who were not able to attend in person.






Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
In observance of NTTW, the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB hosted its 30th annual SUNsational Service Courtesy Awards luncheon on May 8. The event, attended by approximately 500 industry partners, recognized Broward County’s finest frontline hospitality professionals who deliver SUNsational Service to the millions of visitors in the destination. There were 82 award nominees and 11 award winners.






Visit Panama City Beach
For this year’s Tourism Appreciation Week in Florida, Visit Panama City Beach hosted a Real. Fun. Celebration on May 7. This free event was open to locals, visitors and everyone who works so hard to promote the destination. The celebration included food trucks, live music, fireworks and more! Every 91 visitors supports a full-time job in Bay County. The area had a total of $1.9 billion in visitor spending for the last recorded fiscal year and a $2.87 billion total economic impact.


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