Thursday, May 24, 2018
Business

With another record tourism year in sight, Florida scrambles to sustain momentum

Florida is on track for another record tourism year, reporting its best numbers ever for the second quarter and the first half of 2013.

The state's tourism industry is on an impressive run the past few years — each a record breaker — given the less-than-stellar U.S. and global rebound from the recession.

But is Florida's record-smashing performance sustainable?

Will Seccombe thinks so. Of course, it's his job to promote visitors as CEO of the state Visit Florida tourism arm. His challenge: To reach 100 million tourists a year, a goal that's getting closer but still several years away. In 2012, the number was 91.4 million.

"When you're selling dreams and vacations and memories, and the numbers are all going in the right direction, it's a lot of fun," Seccombe said Wednesday.

What do Potter, Bollywood, Copa and Star Wars have in common? They will propel Florida tourism forward. More on them later.

The good news is that mid-way through 2013, 49.6 million tourists visited Florida. But the state attracts the most visitors in the year's first quarter. Those numbers shrink thereafter. The fourth quarter attracts the fewest visitors.

Seccombe says growing tourism is all about sustaining key U.S., Canadian, European and Latin American markets, but also reaching out to new places and people.

The tourism leader credits the governor and state legislators — who for now see the tourism sector as the state's primary job machine — for generous funding. That money now lets Florida market itself year-round in most major markets. And he praises the re-investing by tourism powerhouses that keep Florida fresh to repeat visitors.

Universal Orlando is expanding its successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter with a 2014 addition. Walt Disney's U.S. theme parks set attendance records thanks to international visitors during the latest fiscal quarter. Disney is also starting to tease the public with upcoming plans for Star Wars, the rock solid franchise it bought from George Lucas. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, all part of the same company, continue to promote new things to see.

It is not just theme parks helping tourism to blossom.

Plans for the Tampa Bay area to host one of the Indian film industry's major awards weekends — the "Bollywood Oscars" — next June are "hugely significant" in opening the India tourism market "and having Florida and Tampa Bay be front and center," says Seccombe. India and China rank atop his list of potential next generation tourists flocking to Florida.

A recent decision by Panama-based Copa Airlines to fly direct to Tampa International Airport from Panama City — Copa's hub to all of Latin America's major cities — is another coup for the future of Florida tourism.

And Google's current project to photographically map all 825 miles of Florida's beaches, then stitch those digital images together, will give potential tourists by next spring an online window to every beach in the state.

It's all about momentum, which Seccombe calls a "powerful thing."

"When you got it, you can hop on and enjoy the ride," he shrugs.

"Or you can double down and work to build on it."

That's the Florida way.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

Comments
Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

TAMPA ó Joe Capitano Sr. invested in the 1400 block of E Seventh Avenue in 1985, never doubting the huge potential of the property for Ybor City.But the deal to build a $52 million boutique hotel on the site didnít start to come together until six ye...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Riverview

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Riverview

RIVERVIEW ó Sprouts Farmers Market is opening a new location in Riverview, the chain announced Thursday. The new store will be located at Summerfield Crossing Shopping Center, though Sprouts did not have a specific opening date.The announcement comes...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5

Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5

APOLLO BEACH ó Tampa Electric Co. is taking a big step away from coal. The Tampa-based utility is spending $853 million to convert its coal-fired Unit 1 at its Big Bend Power Station to natural gas and retire coal-fired Unit 2 in 2021.Five workers di...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmonís was a meeting place

Hooper: More than a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmonís was a meeting place

Itís where former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams had lunch with current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.Itís where University of South Florida fans often gathered to watch the programís biggest road games.Itís where folks showed up in...
Updated: 3 hours ago
An Amazon Echo recorded a familyís conversation, then sent it to a random person in their contacts, report says

An Amazon Echo recorded a familyís conversation, then sent it to a random person in their contacts, report says

A family in Portland, Oregon, received a nightmarish phone call two weeks ago."Unplug your Alexa devices right now," a voice on the other line said. "Youíre being hacked."Apparently, one of Amazon.comís Alexa-powered Echo devices in their house had s...
Updated: 3 hours ago
As home sale prices rise, a lack of homes makes it tough on buyers

As home sale prices rise, a lack of homes makes it tough on buyers

Home sale prices continued to rise both nationally and statewide in April as a prolonged dearth of available homes on the market is making it tough on buyers. A total of 24,804 single-family homes changed hands across Florida last month, up 4.1 perce...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Brink: A 25-cent hike in the federal gas tax is a rotten idea for Florida

Brink: A 25-cent hike in the federal gas tax is a rotten idea for Florida

No matter your politics, the proposed 25-cent hike in the federal gas tax is a lousy idea.Itís regressive, burdening the poor and working class more than the rich.Federal interference with state transportation projects can raise costs, layer on regul...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tutor looks to empower athletes in Wesley Chapel

Tutor looks to empower athletes in Wesley Chapel

Rashay Hudson operates a tutoring business in Wesley Chapel, and NaDorian Hudson has played basketball his entire life, including in college and the ABA. Now, the husband and wife duo are combining their areas of expertise with a new program for kids...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Bar builder finds solid success in Tampa

Bar builder finds solid success in Tampa

TAMPA ó Ever since he was a little boy, Chris Davenport loved to build things with Legos and erector sets. As he grew older, he spent time working with his dad, a carpenter, and then took welding classes in high school. While in college studying engi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Metro Diner brings fare to South Tampa

Metro Diner brings fare to South Tampa

Metro Diner, having already established several locations across Florida, including St. Petersburg, now brings its large portion-sized comfort food options across the bay.The local diner is slated to open Tuesday (May 29) at 4011 W Kennedy Blvd and w...
Updated: 8 hours ago