Canadians can’t get enough Sunshine State, and the feeling is mutual, says Visit Florida
Photo credit: visitflorida.com

Canadians can’t get enough Sunshine State, and the feeling is mutual, says Visit Florida

ORLANDO — The Sunshine State continues to roll out the red carpet for Canadian visitors as travel rapidly resumes.

“We are truly excited to start seeing more and more Canadians coming back to Florida,” said Dana Young, CEO, Visit Florida at last week’s IPW 2022 in Orlando. “We’re glad to see those numbers moving back up, but obviously, we’re not where we want to be yet.”

Canada has attained the honour of the number one international visitor source for Florida as of Q1 2022, but that doesn’t mean Visit Florida is ready to sit on its laurels where its top market is concerned.

“We’re going to keep pushing and doing our job to make sure Canadians don’t ever forget about Florida,” she said.

In 2019 Florida welcomed a record-breaking 131.4 million visitors. At this point in the pandemic the numbers haven’t returned to those levels yet. But Visit Florida has been pleasantly surprised by the increases in the domestic market, currently charting at 7.2% higher than in 2019.

“We had 34.1 million domestic visitors – the highest domestic visitation we’ve ever seen,” said Young. “The targeted marketing we’ve been doing all over the country is really paying off.”

While they’re welcoming more fellow Americans to Florida’s resort cities, Young and the team at Visit Florida continue to focus on encouraging Canadians to travel south.

This past April, Visit Florida spent a week in Canada, bringing 17 partners on a trade mission to Toronto and Montreal.

Planning is already underway for another trade mission in September, and for the winter campaign, launching in November or December.

Young is confident Canadians are willing to fly south any time of year, especially after more than two years without their regular Florida vacation.

“The minute Canadians can travel, they’ll put on their hats and sunscreen and come in the summer,” said Young, who encourages travel advisors to recommend Florida as a year-round destination, especially as travel returns.

“Traditionally Florida has been a winter destination for Canadians, but we’ve seen Canadians are travelling in the off-season now too.”

Fuelled by the latest research on how different demographics are thinking and planning travel, a newer focus for Visit Florida is millennial families, who in the past considered Florida a destination preferred by their grandparents. As Young explained, they’re looking to travel when the kids are out of school, and Visit Florida wants to be their first choice.

“The segments you want are multi-generational, because of the missed opportunities (of the past two years),” said Young.

Another major lure Visit Florida wants to showcase are the culinary offerings throughout the state, especially with the recent launch of the Michelin Guide to Florida, featuring Miami, Tampa and Orlando.

Travel advisors have plenty of choice when it comes to what’s new in Florida. According to Young, many hotels took advantage in the past two years to update and renovate, and there are numerous new hotels, restaurants, attractions and additions to some of the state’s best-known tourist lures including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Legoland and SeaWorld.

Visit Florida regularly updates its website with the latest news, at visitflorida.com (and here’s a bonus: the site also features easy-to-create custom itineraries for clients).

“We’re encouraging Canadians who are repeat visitors to try something new. If you’re going to Orlando, maybe consider Crystal River,” suggested Young, who wants to encourage travellers to not repeat the same experience over and over.

If theme parks or certain beaches are at the top of a client’s agenda, suggest they add a new adventure, like a short road trip. “You can see something amazing within two to two and a half hours from wherever you happen to be,” says Young.

Another change which could open up more opportunities for Canadians to explore south Florida is the phase two expansion of the Brightline, a train system and development including office, retail, commercial and residential. Brightline connects travellers from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and soon to Orlando, and eventually to Tampa. With numerous flight options, the Brightline can make it easy to add an extra city to a client’s vacation.

While Florida’s selling points are legion, they bear repeating: 1,280 kilometres of world class beaches, plus amazing cuisine, incredible designer and outlet shopping and outdoor experiences like swimming with manatees in the wild, watching a space launch at the Kennedy Space Center, snorkelling and scuba diving in the Florida Keys. There’s also a wide range of accommodation to fit any budget.

“Canadians are the backbone of our international tourist industry. And if you’ve been to Florida before, come back, because it will be a whole new experience,” said Young.

She reiterated Visit Florida’s commitment to Canada and the numerous positive indicators on the horizon: “We’re excited. Everything’s trending in the right direction.”

Want to know what’s new in Florida? Here’s a list of new attractions, celebrations, hotels and more…

  • Central Florida Skydiving now open in Ocala/Marion
  • The Ultimate Daytona Beach Trail Guide
  • Peppa Pig Theme Park, Winter Haven
  • Universal Orlando Resort’s Jurassic World Velocicoaster
  • Walt Disney Resort’s 50th anniversary
  • Everglades National Park 75th anniversary
  • Disney’s Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser two-night immersive adventure
  • Hilton Garden Inn St Pete Beach now open
  • Daytona Grande Oceanfront Resort now open
  • Hillsboro Beach Resort now open
  • Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo glamping accommodations
  • The Boca Raton renovates ahead of its 100th anniversary
  • The redevelopment of the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club into the first luxury residential and first Four Seasons on the Paradise Coast

For more details see visitflorida.com.