VISIT FLORIDA, Discover America Preparing for Canadians to Return in Strength

Left to right: Mackenzie Comerer, Senior Media Relations Manager 路 Visit St. Pete Clearwater; Meagan Dougherty Lowe, Public Relations Director, VISIT FLORIDA; Erin Cramer, Public Relations Account Executive, VISIT FLORIDA; and Aaron Wodin-Schwartz, Senior Vice President Public Affairs, Brand USA
Left to right: Mackenzie Comerer, Senior Media Relations Manager 路 Visit St. Pete Clearwater; Meagan Dougherty Lowe, Public Relations Director, VISIT FLORIDA; Erin Cramer, Public Relations Account Executive, VISIT FLORIDA; and Aaron Wodin-Schwartz, Senior Vice President Public Affairs, Brand USA

鈥淚t was a long time coming, but we鈥檙e thrilled to be back.鈥

VISIT FLORIDA held their first tourism event in Canada in more than three years on 15SEP, taking over the 43rd floor Sky Suite at Toronto's posh Bisha Hotel.

鈥淭his is our first visit to Canada since June of 2019,鈥 Meagan Dougherty Lowe, public relations director for VISIT FLORIDA, told Open Jaw in a one-on-one chat during a break in the reception. 鈥淚t鈥檚 so great to be back.鈥

Representatives from The Florida Keys, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Discover Palm Beaches, Visit Pensacola, Fort Myers and Amelia Island were on hand for a fun-filled night that featured an array of fresh seafood, tropical drinks, poutine, and entertainment.

Lowe said the Canadian market is slow in bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels, but that the same is true for other international destinations. Canadian visits for the first six months of this year amounted to 2.3 million, which his 40% lower than in 2019, she said.

There are several positive stats for the Sunshine State. Lowe said Florida鈥檚 share of the U.S. travel market was 19.7% in 2019, but rose to 22.1% last year. The age of visitors also has altered significantly in the past couple years, dropping from an average of 49.8 to 45.1 as younger families and millennials head to the state.

VISIT FLORIDA this year is putting an emphasis on culinary tourism and accessibility.

鈥淲e鈥檝e never been known for our culinary scene, but the new MICHELIN Guide includes Miami, Orlando and Tampa,鈥 Lowe pointed out. The state鈥檚 tourism department also will be focusing the spotlight on lesser-known chefs in other communities.

Lowe said Florida also wants to become known as the most accessible state in the U.S. and is working hard to make it easier for folks with all sorts of accessibility issues to visit. That effort includes posting videos of Floridians talking about how they cope with autism, deafness, or being in a wheelchair.

Discover America: Highest Hotel Bookings in History

Earlier in the day, the Discover America Canada group held a series of media sessions to illustrate the depth of tourism offerings in the U.S. Representatives from destinations such as Louisiana and Myrtle Beach were on hand, as were officials from Air Canada, Air Canada Vacations, Air Miles and other companies.

Raina Williams, a top executive with Expedia Canada who analyzes the U.S. tourism market, said 51% of Canadians are planning two leisure trips in the next year, and that search volume is steady.

鈥淲e鈥檙e seeing the highest hotel bookings in Expedia history,鈥 she said, and the U.S. is a prime destination for everyone from families to couples looking for a romantic holiday.

鈥淲e鈥檙e excited to see so many Canadians heading south of the border,鈥 she said.

Participants in the Discover America session also heard a fine presentation at lunch from former U.S. astronaut John Herrington, the first Native American in space and a great story teller.

Jim Byers

Jim Byers is a freelance travel writer based in Toronto. He was formerly travel editor at the Toronto Star and now writes for a variety of publications in Canada and around the world. He's also a regular guest on CBC, CTV News, Global News and other television and radio networks.

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