State Seeks To Bolster Tourism After Hurricane Damage

October 22, 2018

Visit Florida is moving forward with a $9 million marketing plan to combat media reports and negative public perceptions about how much of the state remains in ruins from Hurricane Michael.

The tourism-marketing agency’s executive committee voted Friday to support a plan that includes highlighting what has reopened in areas hit by the deadly Oct. 10 storm in Northwest Florida. The plan also seeks to call attention to other areas of the Panhandle, such as Pensacola, that were largely unscathed and deliver a message that “the rest of Florida is wide open for business.”

“If we do not manage the customer perception, it could be very devastating to our economy if they think that (hurricane damage) is very widespread,” said committee member Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The marketing effort will feature domestic and international ads along with heavy use of videos on social-media sites showing what’s open and the recovery efforts. It is seen, in part, as a continuation of ongoing work to address concerns of potential tourists about algae and red-tide problems in waterways in Southeast and Southwest Florida this year.

Staci Mellman, Visit Florida’s interim chief marketing officer, said the post-Michael effort will be layered on a planned $500,000 campaign that is set to kick in once the red tide problems subside.

“It’s all about maintaining Florida’s brand perception and ensuring we stay a top tourist destination,” Mellman told members of the executive committee during a conference call.

A goal for the agency is to find a balance in marketing what is open while being respectful to people in areas like Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe, which were decimated by the storm and face a long recovery. The agency also has to grapple with media images of storm-damaged areas.

Committee members balked at a proposal to prominently display on the Visit Florida homepage a map outlining areas of the state that are open and closed.

“The general perception is Florida is in a hurricane, a lot of damage happened and everything is closed,” committee member Danny Gaekwad of MGM Hotels said as he unsuccessfully pitched the idea. “The best way to fight, to educate the customer on how big is Florida, is very simple, where the damage is and where the damage is not.  The airline is coming. The roads are open. Bridges are open. Points of interest are open. And that gives the best perception, I think, because we are fighting the media.”

Committee members said such information will be on a webpage focused on Northwest Florida, but they don’t want to highlight hurricanes on the homepage.

Visit Florida has contracted with the international public-relations firm Ketchum, and the state agency will begin working next week with tourism officials in four Panhandle counties — Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton — that were mostly unscathed by the storm.

The plan must still go before Visit Florida’s Finance Committee as the agency determines where the money will come from.

Cynthia Hefren, Visit Florida chief financial officer, said the agency is looking at a “variety” of sources, such as $1 million available for a crisis and shifting about $1.3 million from the agency’s uncontracted funds.

The agency received $76 million from the state Legislature for the fiscal year that started July 1.

A year ago, Visit Florida enacted a similar $5 million winter-marketing plan to promote the Florida Keys after the island chain was ravaged by Hurricane Irma.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida


3 Responses to “State Seeks To Bolster Tourism After Hurricane Damage”

  1. Kane on October 23rd, 2018 2:10 pm

    I am a natural born son of Florida we have ALWAYS relied on tourism and Military for our state income. Are you two even from here? Of course they want to get the tourism back on track if they don’t we will be broke like say Detroit. We are state of transplants and retirees our biggest challenge is that there isn’t a lot to keep younger people from leaving to pursue opportunities that are just not available here unless you want to be in healthcare or join the Navy there isn’t much else.

    If the state really wants to do something for tourism they would push to legalize recreational weed. We are probably the State in the Union that needs it the most.
    Tourists would flock to us our coffers would be full and our citizens (us) would benefit greatly form this. Also we’d have something to blame our craziness on. That guy walking his alligator on a leash yeah he’s just high lol.

  2. lone chief on October 22nd, 2018 9:32 pm

    Agree FaithinUS. We have whored out our state way too much at the cost of most who live here. To still be so dependent on the tourism industry is just straight up retarded. I remember this place was pretty much heaven growing up here, but have since watched to total degradation of our lands, resources, waterways, not to mention the caliber of folks here now. There is some serious talent, smarts and drive in a lot of our good people, bring in some clean industries and not the addiction driven businesses/economy ones either. Industry, good jobs. It’s time to wash to filth off.

  3. FaithinUS on October 22nd, 2018 1:43 pm

    Sure! Come to Florida for the Disaster Tour-
    Start in the Panhandle/Big Bend area to see hurricane Michael’s devastating impact.
    Bring your tent and sleeping bags, though- what acommodations weren’t destroyed are full of aid workers and storm refugees for the forseeable future. Be aware that there’s a lot less shade than their was for your last visit.
    Mosey on down to the eastern Gulf of Mexico and enjoy the stench of rotting fish from the massive Red Tide and green algae blooms! Bring a respirator to be sure you don’t inhale the toxic mist wafting the air.
    The southern Atlantic coast offers more of that, and daily flooding in Miami due to the rising ocean from climate change the governor won’t allow DEP to mention.
    Visit central Florida’s many fresh waterways, some so polluted you cannot swim in them.
    Take a scenic drive on any interstate to view numerous examples of the state ‘tree’- the Orange Traffic barrel- Must be a million of them now. Test your driving skills on I-10 where a good stretch has downed trees cut off the roadway right at the edge of the pavement.
    Be sure to get caught up in the traffic around our most famous tourist attractions, because there’s no public transportation network in the Sunshine State. The only way to get here by train is down the east coast.
    On the upside, the Emerald Coast is largely unharmed, so we can expect a bunch of ‘not from around heres’ to bugger up traffic this fall and winter.

    This is your tax dollars at work, people! Our state is so reliant on tourism we gotta keep those low wage tourist-reliant workers employed so the economy doesn’t falter.

Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.