Governor Charlie Crist today met with tourism and hospitality industry leaders in Fort Lauderdale to hear their recommendations for promoting Florida as a vacation and travel destination in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Although Florida has seen only sporadic sightings of tar balls on Northwest Florida beaches, tourism industry leaders have seen cancellations and declining reservations statewide.
“Florida’s tourism is essential to the financial well-being of our entire state, as well as local communities,” Governor Crist said. “We must do all we can to inform all potential visitors that our beaches are still beautiful and clean, and that Florida seafood is still safe and delicious.”
During today’s roundtable discussion, Governor Crist heard from Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, about how the organization used a $850,000 grant from BP to encourage vacation and business travel to Broward County.
The grant was part of the $25-million first round of a marketing campaign to counter negative, widespread information that potential visitors to Florida were receiving about the oil spill’s impact on Florida’s beaches and waters.
Emergency Tourism Marketing and Advertising
During May, June and July, VISIT FLORIDA and local tourist development councils in the Panhandle and other coastal areas conducted a $25-million tourism marketing campaign, funded by a grant from BP.
Governor Crist first requested $34.75 million from BP for the advertising campaign on May 12, 2010.
Last week, Governor Crist requested an additional $43 million from BP to complete a second round of tourism marketing and advertising, as initially requested on June 30, 2010.
The additional $43 million would be used to promote tourism to coastal areas of the state by addressing misperceptions held by potential travelers to the Sunshine State.
The Governor’s request followed an announcement of BP’s $7-million grant to the Northwest Florida Travel Council for their second wave of tourism marketing and advertising.
“Florida: Fishing Capital of the World”
During today’s roundtable, Governor Crist emphasized that Florida has long been the number-one recreational fishing destination in the country for anglers, earning the Sunshine State the title of “Fishing Capital of the World.” With nearly 3.7 million residents and visitors who fish Florida’s waters annually, fishing is an integral part of the state’s tourism industry. Fishing in the Sunshine State brings in $7.5 billion and supports 75,000 jobs.
On Friday, Governor Crist announced that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reopened coastal state waters offshore of Escambia County to the harvest of saltwater fish, as of 12:01 a.m., Saturday, July 31. The FWC had closed this area on June 14 as a precautionary measure due to possible impacts of oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
To provide real-time information about the condition of Florida’s beaches to potential travelers, VISIT FLORIDA has made Florida Live, www.visitflorida.com/floridalive, a permanent feature on the Web site.
First introduced on May 11, Florida Live provides a real-time resource for visitors to see for themselves what is happening in Florida.
The Web site features many helpful tips to visitors, including live webcam images from locations around the state, Twitter feeds from local tourism organizations, and date-stamped photos by fans sharing their favorite Florida experiences, as well as daily fishing reports from captains all around the state, available at www.visitflorida.com/fishing.
For the most up-to-date information on Florida’s Deepwater Horizon response, as well as health and safety tips, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon.
For information on the Gulf Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force, go to www.flgov.com/gulfrecoverytaskforce.