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Tourism aid readied after Idalia

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Florida beach closed. [Photo by Florida Guidebook]

Florida’s tourism-marketing agency is preparing to help rural and coastal areas recover from Hurricane Idalia.

Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young told board members Wednesday that marketing efforts are on standby for North Florida’s Big Bend region, where Idalia made landfall last week as a Category 3 storm.

"When they're ready --- right now they're not --- but when they're ready, we have money set aside to work with them, to help them rebuild a small but very important tourism industry,” said Young, a former Tampa lawmaker whose family is from Cedar Key.

Idalia made landfall Aug. 30 in the Keaton Beach area of Taylor County before barreling through parts of North Florida into Georgia. Coastal communities such as Cedar Key, which is in Levy County, sustained damage from wind and flooding.

Visit Florida did not announce a funding amount for the Idalia recovery effort.

Young estimated Idalia resulted in about $38 million in “negative” media coverage for areas such as Horseshoe Beach and Steinhatchee.

Visit Florida undertook a $5 million multi-phase marketing effort after Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida in September 2022.

Part of the effort, which ran through June, was aimed at offsetting an estimated $165 million in “negative” media coverage from the deadly Category 4 storm.

The effort started with a focus on 15 areas not directly affected by Ian. The second phase narrowed marketing to 19 counties designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as impacted by Ian.

The final phase was narrowly tailored to attracting people to five Southwest Florida counties --- Lee, Collier, Hardee, DeSoto and Charlotte --- most affected by Ian.

Young envisions the Big Bend region being a big part of a wider marketing effort aimed at reversing a decrease in tourism numbers during the second quarter of 2023. Tourism officials said the marketing effort will seek to counter anticipated competition from other states, which opened up later than Florida from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of the plan is to promote adventure travel, which is intended to increase awareness of things to do beyond popular beaches and theme parks.

"We are partnering with the Adventure Travel (Trade) Association, including a lot of our rural and venture capital counties in this coalition, to elevate our prominence and reputation in the adventure travel industry,” Young said.

The statewide marketing plan also includes an expansion of Visit Florida’s partnership with the international Michelin Guide beyond Tampa, Orlando and Miami. Young said the goal is to “lift up Florida as a culinary destination as a whole.”


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