‘Visit Florida’ attempts to keep residents in-state with new ad campaign

It’s no secret that Florida’s economy relies on tourism. But due to people canceling their vacations because of the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Florida has lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion and countless jobs.

But Visit Florida is trying to do their part to keep residents spending in-state as part of a new ad campaign. Fishing Captain John Gauntt believes their plan is working.

Gauntt runs Day 5 Fishing Charter on Fort Myers Beach. “It was an awesome beautiful day on the water,” he said.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Gauntt has to shut down his business and was not sure if he’d be able to make ends meet without an income.

“Being able to pay the mortgage on December first depends on how well you do during the spring break season. And, when we lost that, we were kind of biting our fingernails,” Gauntt said.

In May, Gauntt hit the water once again in his trusty boat and his business has stayed afloat since. He has almost completely made up for the lost revenue.

How has he managed this? Because people from all across the state seem to be exploring everything Florida has to offer.

“So a lot of locals are coming and playing and having a great time out on the water,” Gauntt said.

Visit Florida is counting on the exact thing that Gauntt is describing: locals traveling to other cities and spending money and saving people’s jobs. A sort of evolved staycation, if you will.

The agency recently launched a $13 million ad campaign to sell its own residents on every place from Marco Island to Englewood.

“Because all the research is showing us that people if they do travel, are going to travel shorter distances,” said Collier County Tourism Director Jack Wert.

In Collier County, hotel occupancy rates are down about 40% compared to this time last year and they’re down about 37% in Lee County.

Gauntt has faith that Visit Florida’s campaign will work. “God is good and he’s going to take care of the business and boom we’ve been busier than I’ve ever been in the summer,” he said.

When one business that serves visitors does well, surrounding businesses often do too. It creates a ripple effect that Visit Florida hopes will create more jobs.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Drew Hill
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