TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s tourism marketing agency says the state’s tourism economy is well on the road to recovery.
The decision to continue advertising during the coronavirus pandemic and some of the state’s less restrictive pandemic policies played a major role.
Letters provided by the governor’s office describe a Florida vacation during the pandemic as “a breath of fresh air” and a “refreshing experience.”
“If people go on vacation, they want to be able to be on vacation,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a Friday news conference.
DeSantis said he regularly hears from visitors to the state talking about how a vacation to Florida helped them over the past year.
“Just for their physical and mental wellbeing,” said DeSantis.
Along with the freedom-oriented policies making the state attractive, Visit Florida played a key role in marketing the state throughout the pandemic.
“My counterpart, the president and CEO of Visit California, said straight out: Florida is eating our lunch,” said Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young in a Senate committee Monday.
Young told lawmakers the agency took an aggressive strategy. Florida was the only state marketing itself as a tourist destination across the country for a seven-month stretch during the pandemic.
“I think Florida does offer tremendous freedom in many ways and people saw that, and that is reflected in the six percent increase that we saw in visitation over 2019,” said Young.
Visit Florida’s funding is set to expire in 2023, but lawmakers hope to push it back until at least 2031.
“With what they were dealing with, to keep our economy like it is, I think it shows more than ever the importance of having that statewide agency,” said state Sen. Ed Hooper, who plans to file the extension in the coming legislative session.
The agency is asking for an annual budget of $75 million. It said marketing to international travelers will be the next step, ahead of borders reopening in November. State economists projected the state’s tourism economy won’t fully recover until at least 2024.
Visit Florida’s CEO called that “unacceptable” and vowed to beat that estimate.