Tuesday, 30 May 2023

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young Talks Hurricane Recovery

The state's tourism arm has launched nationwide ads to tout open destinations.

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young Talks Hurricane Recovery

In the wake of Hurricane Ian that devastated a good portion of Southwest Florida, the state's official tourism arm, VISIT FLORIDA, this week launched a national advertising campaign to tout Florida's numerous destinations that are open for business.

"Many people outside of the state of Florida don't realize how big Florida really is," VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young told TravelPulse in a one-on-one interview. "That presented a very big challenge for us to highlight those areas that were not hit as hard and are up and running as usual."

Indeed, VISIT FLORIDA commissioned Nielsen Co. to do a study on media coverage of the hurricane and public perception. From the period of time right before Ian made landfall on September 28 through October 14, Nielsen found Florida tourism had a negative $165 million in negative earnings or, in other words, nine figures worth of bad publicity.

For perspective's sake, Young noted that VISIT FLORIDA has a $50 million annual marketing budget. So right away, the tourism office was facing a deficit to get the word out that places like the Florida Keys, the Tampa area, the Panhandle, Orlando and its theme parks, East Coast beach areas like Jacksonville, Daytona, the Space Coast, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale received minimal to no damage and were unaffected by the hurricane.

The campaign, which has been rolled out to 14 destinations across the country from New York to Boston to Houston to the West Coast, assures tourists that the "Sun's Shining in Florida." Whatever the cost is to VISIT FLORIDA, it's needed as tourism accounts for 13 percent, or $403 billion, of the state of Florida's $3.1 trillion economy.

This wasn't a simple, straightforward proposition for Young and VISIT FLORIDA, however. Like all Floridians, she is heartbroken after the nation's fifth-worst storm in history destroyed much of Southwest Florida. Running an ad campaign to market all the fun things the state has to offer created an emotional reaction.

"Unfortunately," Young said softly, "my team and I are quite adept at handling crisis communication," including previous hurricanes, the COVID crisis, the mass shootings at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and more.

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