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Saturday,  April 20, 2024 9:32 PM 

VISIT FLORIDA's goal to be the “number one accessible destination in the world”

VISIT FLORIDA's goal to be the “number one accessible destination in the world”
From left: Mackenzie Comerer. sr. media relations manager, Visit St. Pete Clearwater; Meagan Dougherty Lowe, director of public relations, VISIT FLORIDA; Erin Cramer, public relations account executive, VISIT FLORIDA; Aaron Wodin-Schwartz, sr. vice-president, public affairs, Brand USA. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

“There’s been a lot of changes over the last two years, but one thing that has remained the same is that Florida is still the vacation destination for Canadians,” said Erin Cramer, a public relations account executive at VISIT FLORIDA.

The Sunshine State’s official tourism marketing corporation, alongside its destination partners, welcomed media and travel pros on Thursday (Sept. 15) at a sky-high reception in the floor-to-ceiling windowed “Sky Suite” at Toronto’s Bisha Hotel.

With soaring views of Lake Ontario and the CN Tower in the background, attendees enjoyed cocktails, a seafood platter and poutine station, as well as a spinning 360-degree video capture area, where fun, looping videos were shot and saved.  

Canada’s love affair with Florida (which is represented by VoX International in Canada) is heating up once again as more people become comfortable with the idea of U.S. travel after two years of COVID-related warnings and restrictions issued by the Canadian government.

Hotels face the ocean in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Visit Florida)

“Between January and June of this year, we saw nearly 2.3 million Canadians travel to Florida,” Cramer said. “That number is increasing every day.”

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Canadian provinces were in lockdown, the state of Florida, for the most part, remained open.

“The Florida experience that Canadians have come to know and love is still there for them,” Meagan Dougherty Lowe, director of public relations at VISIT FLORIDA, told PAX. “We didn’t shut down for very long, so didn’t have to hire back a workforce. Or retrain employees.”

“The service that Canadians have come to expect – they're going to get that if they come to Florida. And if travel agents are booking Florida, they can do it with confidence.”

“The Florida experience that Canadians have come to know and love is still there,

Focus on accessible travel 

One aspect of tourism that Florida has put a greater focus on is accessible travel. The organization has been updating its website with new resources for people of all abilities.

The team launched a video series, called “Limitless Florida," which showcases the many great things Floridians and guests, of all abilities, can do in the state.

“It can be anyone, from a person with hearing impairments to someone with a child with autism to someone in a wheelchair,” Dougherty Lowe said. “Florida allows them to have the same experiences as everyone else.”

Florida’s online hub, for instance, outlines which beaches use mobi-mats – mats that are rolled out onto sand so that beaches are wheelchair accessible.

Users on the site would learn that "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island has a viewfinder for people who are colourblind so they can experience the sights, from the colours of birds to the flora and fauna.

“Our goal is to be the number one accessible destination in the world,” Dougherty Lowe said.

Travel agents can find a new module about accessibility and travel on VISIT FLORIDA’s Travel Pro portal here

“They can learn about these opportunities and share them with people who are looking for that type of vacation,” Dougherty Lowe said.

Still a hot ticket 

The Florida team also touched on the type of business trends they’re seeing right now.

Last-minute bookings – trips that are 30 days out, or less – are becoming more common, Cramer said.

And Florida, much like its weather, is still a hot ticket.

Lunchtime in Panama City, Florida. (Visit Florida)

in 2021, Florida’s market share of all Canadians coming to the U.S. was just over 22 per cent, Cramer said. In 2019, it was just around 19 per cent.

“So, they are choosing Florida over other U.S. destinations,” she said.

For all comfort levels  

With old man winter right around the corner, Florida is eager to welcome back sun-seeking Canadians with outdoor experiences.

“We’re able to accommodate Canadians of all comfort levels [regarding travel during the pandemic],” Cramer said. “We offer outdoor activities year-round because we are very fortunate to have nice weather.”

A sandbar in North Captiva in Southwest Florida. (The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel)

“For those who may be apprehensive about doing an indoor activity, we have everything from the beach to hiking to springs. We have 175 National State Parks. The options are endless.”

Even the everyday stuff.

“If you want to dine. If you want to shop. If you want to see art – all of that is available outdoors in the winter,” Dougherty Lowe added. “It's something you can't really do in Canada.”

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