Make us your home page
Instagram

How Florida empowers tourists to hand pick their favorite beaches

Florida's tourism gurus, ever pressing to hit 120 million visitors a year by 2020, just rolled out a cool online tool to help travelers find just the right beach in the Sunshine State.

That's no simple task. There are hundreds of very different beaches to choose from along Florida's vast coastline.

Unveiled quietly, the online tool lets armchair travelers virtually and visually pick and choose from among 740 miles of Sunshine State beaches as diverse as legendary Miami Beach, west coast cool Anna Maria Island and tranquil Caladesi Island, a brief ferry ride off Pinellas County.

Florida Beach Finder is a creation of state tourism agency Visit Florida. The site combines imagery from Google's "Beach Views" shot from the state's coastlines, customizing technology from a company called TripTuner and a $500,000 grant from BP, provided in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In the coming year, Visit Florida expects to double the 100-plus beaches it now features on the site as more local tourism organizations offer up additional beach locations and data, says Paul Phipps, Visit Florida's chief marketing officer.

But Florida Beach Finder may be just the start. Look for Visit Florida to roll out a similar online service that lets tourists customize their searches for Florida attractions as diverse as Disney theme parks in Orlando and kayaking the Everglades.

Yet another rollout will help visitors search online among culinary experiences in Florida, tied to Visit Florida-supported shows hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

It's all about finding smarter ways to tell people what Florida offers.

Here's how Florida Beach Finder works online. Users get four sliding controls, similar to bass and treble sliders on a graphic equalizer. They offer a spectrum of beach choices, from "adventurous" to "laid back" on one slider and "family friendly" to "romantic" on another. Fine-tuning all four sliders can generate more than a hundred options for beaches precisely geared to individual tastes.

I customized my search of Florida Beach Finder for a beach highest in "laid back" and "romantic" attributes yet also maxed out with "action packed" and "manicured" features. Out popped Marco Island as the top pick. Clearwater Beach ranked among secondary alternatives. Click on any beach that Florida Beach Finder delivers and enjoy 360-degree views of each location.

It's cool tech. And smart marketing.

"People look to Florida," Phipps says. "We are challenged to be innovative and set new standards."

If another state uses similar technology to help tourists, Phipps has not heard of it. Even if it's out there, he says, it won't matter. Considering the variety of beaches, the depth of attractions and the weather, no other state can compete with Florida.

Says Phipps: "They just don't have the diversity of product."

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

Try it yourself

How to find your perfect Florida beach: visitflorida.com/en-us/beach-finder.html.

How Florida empowers tourists to hand pick their favorite beaches 06/16/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2014 11:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA

    Airlines

    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  2. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.
  3. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  4. Eat 3-course meals for $35 at these 100 restaurants for Orlando's Magical Dining Month

    Food & Dining

    In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multi-course meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte …

    Bulla Gastrobar serves a variety of Spanish and Portuguese dishes.
  5. Plant City farmer hopes robot pickers can save strawberry industry from shrinking labor force

    Agriculture

    PLANT CITY — If current trends continue, the region's status as a major strawberry producer will depend in large part on what happens in Mexico.

    Strawberry pickers work during the daytime, when fruit is more likely to bruise. Machine pickers can work at night. The owner of Wish Farms in Plant City is developing automated pickers and hopes to see them at work on a widespread basis in five years. [Times file]