- Theme Parks
- Walt Disney World
- Vacation Tips
Visit Florida’s annual Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism concluded Friday and the annual report card shows that the State of Florida saw a record 106.6 million visitors in 2015. Additionally, through the first six months of this year, the Sunshine State had drawn an estimated 57.3 million visitors, up 4.3% from last year’s record results.
That’s the good news given the state has seen some negative publicity in recent months with the Zika outbreak in Miami and the Pulse nightclub mass murder in Orlando as well as the death of 2-year-old Walt Disney World visitor Lane Graves from an alligator attack. Add to the list the choking algae bloom along Florida’s central east coast that captured national headlines around the July 4 holiday and just last week, the first hurricane in 11 years, Hermine, made landfall in Florida when it came ashore south of Tallahassee.
The conference ran from the 7th to 9th September and was attended by just over 1,000 travel suppliers, travel agents and visitor bureau representatives who enjoyed the theme “Sharpening The Focus.”
Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe (pictured above) opened the conference and immediately address the negativity… stating “Florida tourism is going to be fine. There is no question this has kind of damaged the halo of the Florida brand, but then it’s our charge to build that back up,” Seccombe said. “The Legislature couldn’t give me enough money to counter all the negativity in the national media. Story after story after story. So we have to focus in on the experiences.”
Despite all that, Florida has broken its annual tourism records for five consecutive years and out of state and international visitors combined to put $89.1 billion back into Florida’s economy in the 2015-2016 fiscal year according to Visit Florida.
“From theme parks, to beaches, the state parks, the rural areas, the downtowns and the small towns, I think this does focus us back on the product and the diversity of product,” he said. “And people just want to have a safe, awesome, memorable experience, and Florida provides that.”
The conference remained upbeat with other highlights being break out sessions on issues impacting the tourism industry, Sharon Gless (pictured above center) accepting the Film Florida Legends Tourism Ambassador Award and some interesting key note speakers.
Shahid Khan (pictured above), the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League and the English Football League Championship team Fulham F.C talked about the synergy between the teams and his hopes for the Jacksonville area.
Alex Sheen (pictured above), founder of “because I said I would”, a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to bettering humanity through promises made and kept shared his message about the importance of a promise.
Dave Barry, author of “Best. State. Ever.: a Florida Man Defends His Homeland”, rounded off the conference by addressing why Florida is the greatest state in spite of some of the more surprising things that have happened here.