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VISIT FLORIDA Unveils Transformational 2020 Strategic Plan

By on September 15th, 2015 — 2:18pm

In the first 6 months of 2015, the Florida tourism industry welcomed over 54 million visitors to the Sunshine State, putting us on pace to surpass Governor Scott’s goal of 100 million visitors and on target for a fifth consecutive record year.  Given these figures, one might assume that we would continue to employ the same strategies that have worked well for the last five years.  However, I am proud to share that VISIT FLORIDA will not be resting on our laurels.

In January, then VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors chair Andrew Hertz appointed a strategic planning committee led by our current chair John Tomlin.  Over the course of eight months, we held eight meetings across the state to determine what we want the Florida tourism industry to look like in 2020 and what VISIT FLORIDA needs to do to make that happen.  The committee solicited feedback from dozens of external stakeholders, including the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Department of Transportation.  We started with a blank slate, asking ourselves what is going to change in the next five years and, probably even more importantly, what’s not going to change in the next five years.

The result is the following 2020 Strategic Plan that was approved by the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors earlier this month.

Purpose:  To brighten the lives of all.  This is what inspires us to get up in the morning.  We create extraordinary life-long memories for visitors and, in turn, those visitors create jobs for Floridians and their spending drives the Florida economy.

Vision:  Establish Florida as the No. 1 travel destination in the world.  This vision is aspirational – and we aspire to be the No. 1 travel destination in a very competitive world.

Mission:  To strengthen Florida’s share of the global travel market.  With 85 million domestic overnight visitors and 15 million international visitors, we are literally competing with every state tourism office, every out-of-state CVB, every international tourism office and thousands of resorts and attractions around the world who are spending billions of dollars to get a Florida visitor to change their mind about their vacation destination.  The only way to win in such a competitive environment is by working together to protect and grow Florida’s collective market share.

Goal:  To maximize the economic impact of travel and tourism to Florida.  Because, at the end of the day, this is what matters most to our businesses, our residents and our state and local government.  This year, we expect to see Florida’s visitor volume top 100 million visitors.  Thinking ahead, we could set our sights to 110 or 120 million, and continue the programs that have made us successful. However, we know there are limitations to our growth if we focus on volume.  More visitors result in a greater impact on our infrastructure and, in areas where we are at 90 percent occupancy, we don’t have much room for increased growth.  So, we have to change the goal.   Instead of volume, we will focus on increasing the travel and tourism spend in Florida.

Objective:  To reach $100 billion in tourism-related spend by 2020.  Today, we are at $82 billion, so we have a ways to go.  The shift from thinking about the number of visitors to thinking about the total economic impact of those visitors will certainly change the way we measure and communicate success, but it will also shift how we invest our resources.

There are four key marketing strategies we will begin to implement immediately that will allow us to accomplish the objective of $100 billion in tourism spend.

Strategy #1:  Keep Florida top-of-mind among target audiences.
We recognize the importance of maintaining our brand presence in our top markets, so we will continue to drive demand for the Florida product among our key domestic and international audiences.

Strategy #2:  Stimulate balanced incremental growth that delivers the greatest economic impact to Florida.  We will accomplish this through programs that focus on:

  • Protecting and growing visitor volume
  • Increasing visitor spend
  • Increasing visitor retention and visit frequency
  • Extending the length of stay
  • Reducing the gap between seasonal highs and lows
  • Increasing travel to emerging Florida destinations

With this strategic shift towards economic impact, it is critical that we invest in initiatives that drive yield.  At the core, we must protect our visitor volume from our most important markets, but we must also focus on growing volume from markets with more potential – especially internationally.  A large piece of this strategy is to create programs that encourage visitors to spend more while they are here, stay longer and return with greater frequency.  In addition, we’re going to look at the seasonality across the entire state and create initiatives that will decrease the gap between our seasonal highs and lows, and increase travel to destinations with capacity so that hospitality businesses in those areas can thrive year-round.

Strategy #3:  Identify and engage advocates in promoting the Florida brand.  In order to reach key niche audiences, we have, for years, embraced high-profile advocates, such as Emeril Lagasse, Peter Miller, Ricky Carmichael and now Pitbull, as part of our marketing efforts.  Recognizing the importance of the recommendations of family and friends when making travel decisions, another important group of advocates for us are our nearly 100 million annual visitors. Over the next several years, we will create programs that encourage our visitors to share our message and expand our audience reach.  We will continue to build and grow our advocacy program to include this important segment –people who are actually experiencing a Florida vacation.

Strategy #4:  Promote industry alignment and collective impact through partner investment and thought leadership.  We believe that a critical role for VISIT FLORIDA is to promote industry alignment and collective impact.  How do we do that?  Through providing valuable research and thought leadership, and through the development of unique programs that create and add value far beyond what our Partners could achieve on their own.  A by-product of good preparation is good results.  Collective power makes a difference.

This is an exciting time to be in the Florida tourism industry and I invite you to be a part of our collective success as we strive to make Florida the No. 1 travel destination in the world.

Will Seccombe
President & CEO
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