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Florida Tourist Hot Spots Welcome In-State Travelers

Miami's tourism industry was hit hard but some hope in-state tourism can help the area recover.
Miami's tourism industry was hit hard but some hope in-state tourism can help the area recover.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is backing Visit Florida's decision to encourage in-state tourism. The agency is hoping its new marketing campaign will boost local economies hit hard by the coronavirus.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is backing Visit Florida's decision to encourage in-state tourism. The agency is hoping its new marketing campaign will boost local economies hit hard by the coronavirus.

Tarpon Springs is a city located on Florida's gulf coast. Known for its sponge docks and Greek cuisine, the community relies heavily on tourism.

"We were in a great economy here in Tarpon Springs. But during the lockdown, it's just like every other place, [the] economy was [a] standstill," Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos says.

The city has always depended on out of state tourism, but now there are more in-state visitors.

"They're coming from different places, anywhere from the southern side of Venice, all the way up to Crystal Beach, and Lakeland, Winter Haven, all of these—even from Orlando they're coming down to Tarpon," Alahouzos says.

Visit Florida markets tourism for the state. Its CEO Dana Young says her group sees data that suggests more people are willing to travel close to home.

"We made a decision to start our tourism marketing toward our Florida residents and just encouraging them to take staycations or short road trips," Young says.

Young explains that's not something Visit Florida typically does. She says usually her group focuses on bringing out-of-state and international tourists into Florida. Rolando Aedo is with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says in-state tourism is needed to get the local economy back on its feet.

"This year more than ever because of a lot of the travel restrictions and airline restrictions—targeting local tourists and tourists in the drive markets has been the foundation of our recovery strategy here in Miami," Aedo says.

But he says in-state tourism is only a short-term solution. For long-term sustainability, the city has to lure back international and out-of-state travelers.

"Especially a destination like Miami, [it] gets 30% to 40% of its business from international visitors, and international visitors, they stay longer, and they spend a lot more," Aedo says.

He says as soon as flight restrictions lift, his group plans to focus on bringing international travelers into Miami. As for Visit Florida, Young says it plans to start marketing to out-of-state people in a few weeks.

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