Hurricane Irma touched nearly all parts of Florida, but now that the sun is shining once again, our state’s tourism industry stands together as we recover and rebuild. The entire industry has come together to support those that were impacted.
We are especially ready to help our friends in The Keys. As a multi-billion-dollar industry, tourism is important to all Florida cities, and that is especially true for The Keys. Tourism is their livelihood. More than half of Monroe County residents are employed by the industry, and tourism generates $2.7 billion to The Keys’ economy every year. That’s why Hurricane Irma’s devastating impact is so significant – not only were many residents left without power, or even access to their home, but the islands had to temporarily close for business.
When Key West welcomes tourists once again in October, our entire industry must come together and ensure their message is heard around the globe. That’s a tough task, but travel promotion is a powerful tool. The Monroe County Tourist Development Council has an aggressive, two-phase marketing plan in store complete with advertising, public relations and social media efforts. Hurricane Irma generated a tremendous amount of negative media coverage with shocking images of the devastation, so we need to make sure the millions of people who saw those stories also know when The Keys are back in business.
Tourism professionals are working hard in other parts of the state, too. Destinations such as Pensacola need to make sure travelers know they were fortunately untouched. Others such as Palm Beach, Tampa and Sarasota quickly launched marketing plans of their own to communicate their recovery with potential visitors. YouTube videos, social media content, special promotions and live footage are all crucial elements of these campaigns, because people across the world can see first-hand that Florida’s beaches are still beautiful.
The world watched as we were hit by Hurricane Irma, but we need to make sure the rest of the world also watches as we recover. Our economy depends on it.
We hear time and time again how tourism is the number one industry in Florida, providing a tremendous economic impact. It’s not always truly apparent, though, exactly what that impact is. The devastation of Hurricane Irma lends a perfect example. The storm’s economic impact in Florida alone is estimated to be $100 billion, and tourism will provide our state’s economy with much-needed revenue. Over the next few months, tourists will spend money on hotels, restaurants, souvenirs and attractions in our state. The tax revenue will pay for damage done to properties, schools, roads and more.
Tourists will also help put Floridians back to work. Consider the small business owner whose store may have been destroyed during the hurricane. There are more than 1.4 million tourism-related jobs in Florida, and that small business owner who is suddenly unable to go to work can seek employment in the travel industry.
Out-of-state visitors will play a critical role in our state’s disaster relief efforts, and we’ve got to make sure they know America’s top travel destination is as beautiful and fun-filled as ever. My colleagues and I will work hard to deliver this message. Together, we can ensure Florida’s future shines bright even after the storm.
Gil Langley is chairman of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, the statewide association representing county tourism promotion agencies.
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