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Florida Tourism in the Brink?

Florida huddles with trade partners ahead of 2010 bounce back

Hazel Heyer, eTN Staff Writer  Jan 29, 2010

St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida (eTN) - At the 31st Florida Huddle (24-26 January) held at the Harborview Center in Clearwater, Florida’s premier tourism promoter Visit Florida disclosed that 2009’s the slight dip in the UK and Canadian markets is offset by the upswing in Brazilian visitors.

Despite last year’s significant tourism funding deficiency, Florida’s top four markets, the UK, Canada and Venezuela have seen single digit drops while Brazil showed an increase. “The overall US count for the UK market went down 16.9% last year while Florida dropped by 15%; USA’s Canada numbers dropped 9%, while Florida’s Canadian total dropped 5.2%. What is a pleasant surprise is the uptick in the Brazilian market: 18% for the US, and 22% for Florida. Brazil happens to be the biggest spender too in the Sunshine State,” said Visit Florida’s Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing, Eileen Forrow.

The upward trend in Brazilian visitations can be attributed to the shorter US visa processing ‘ which takes from 7 to 14 days currently, compared to the previous 10 week-3 month wait. Forrow said that the UK drop is a consequence of the combined weaker economy, operators cutting back due to the crisis, as well as UK airlift cuts.

However, Florida reports strong third quarter receipts from 2.2m Canadians, from an overall international count of 5m; and a huge influx of domestic travelers reported at 53.3m in the last quarter of 2009.

The ongoing serious interest on Florida has been manifested at the Florida Huddle where 182 booths representing 300 properties and destinations came on the floor. Tourism’s longest running single show, Huddle gathers travel wholesalers, tour operators, receptive tour operators and incentive buyers who feature Florida as destination. Buyers meet face-to-face with Florida suppliers representing the spectrum of travel industry products and services. With mutually-matched appointments between buyers and suppliers, the show organizers Huddle International reported 95% of the buyer attendees requested to meet with sellers and have a full set of appointments during the event.

“Despite a soft market, 25 companies on my waitlist did not make it to the show as we maintain 1:1 ratio matchmaking our tourism suppliers with buyers,” said Lynn Warren, President Huddle International LLC.

Events in the state such as this only help to boost tourism numbers reportedly to spike up anytime this 2010.Visit Florida said its support for and affiliation with the US Travel Association is set to drive their marketing campaign developing the meetings market throughout its niches worldwide. Visit Florida has just launched its new consumer campaign in what it calls the Super 7, including Atlanta, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Arizona, Washington DC and Toronto ‘ promoting the Sunshine State on billboards, subway ads, special promotions and the itravel 2010 exclusively for Canada.

Forrow said they employ a call to action that is dynamic and lively. “We have also launched a stimulus program matching dollar for dollar the meeting attendees in order to attract them to the meeting planners,” she said, adding most of the visitors to Florida are repeat visitors. And the reason for using the stimulus to market elsewhere is to capture the remaining 6%.

Florida hopes to regain its unemployed tourism workforce back. Currently, there are about 1m staff laid off as an effect of the recession.

The Huddle comes as a good stimulus addendum catering to the lost jobs in tourism by holding annual conferences such as the one this week.

Florida huddles with trade partners ahead of 2010 bounce back

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