TORONTO — VISIT FLORIDA brought the sunshine to last night’s ‘A Taste of Florida’ event in Toronto where destination updates, Sunshine State-inspired cocktails and appetizers, a delicious dinner and prizes were all on tap.
With stops in both Toronto and Montreal this week, the two-city Canada Sales Mission is highlighting the many new offerings available this year in various destinations across the state. And now with Canada’s eased travel measures, and following significant increases in 2021, VISIT FLORIDA is hoping to see even more robust numbers from Canada this year.
Speaking with Travelweek, Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA’s President and CEO, describes Canada as a “vitally important market”, historically serving as one of the top international markets for the state.
“In 2019, Florida welcomed over 4 million visitors from Canada,” says Young. “After being at a near standstill due to the pandemic, we have seen our Canadian visitor volume rebound significantly since borders reopened last fall. In 2021, approximately 584,000 Canadian travellers visited Florida, representing an increase of nearly 55% from 2020.”
When asked what the forecast will be for 2022, Young adds: “Though VISIT FLORIDA doesn’t make projections, we are confident we can expect tremendous visitation growth from Canada this year. The lifting of restrictions is essential for bringing back Canadians in full force, and Florida is well positioned as a top post-pandemic destination. Canadians have made it clear they want Florida like never before, and this unprecedented demand will help drive our visitation numbers to new heights for the foreseeable future.”
Being in Canada this week, Young reiterates the importance of connecting directly with Canadian travel agents to showcase everything Florida has to offer their clients.
“These events will shine a light on our state’s amazing hidden gems and introduce Canadians to new experiences in a destination they already know so well,” she says. “In addition to our Canada Sales Mission, VISIT FLORIDA is working closely with its partners on a variety of programs to elevate Florida’s presence within this crucial audience segment, and we are looking forward to further collaboration that grows our Canadian market share.”
Here are some destination updates from yesterday’s event held at Hotel X Toronto:
DISCOVER CRYSTAL RIVER
Known as ‘The Manatee Capital of the World,’ Crystal River, located about 75 minutes north of Tampa, is the only place in the United States to offer legal, up-close encounters with the West Indian manatee. Tour operators offer semi-private and private tours, allowing guests to safely swim alongside these gentle giants in their natural habitat. The official manatee season runs from Nov. 15 through March 31, however, manatees can be found in and around the waters of Crystal River year-round.
Crystal River is also known for its scalloping season, which runs from July 1 to Sept. 24. Each summer, visitors far and wide arrive to hunt through the grassy shallows of the Gulf of Mexico for delicious bay scallops. Whether launching from public boat ramps on their own, or with an experienced local guide, scallopers follow the Homosassa and Crystal Rivers to the gulf in this family-friendly local tradition.
FORT MYERS ISLANDS, BEACHES & NEIGHBORHOODS
Fresh off a complete rebrand, Fort Myers Islands, Beaches & Neighborhoods has launched a brand new website that focuses more on the entire destination as a whole, under the new slogan, ‘It’s a Good Day.” It’s home to nine different neighbourhoods and 100 islands, and offers an array of outdoor experiences like island hopping by boat, hiking through Six Mile Cypress Slough preserve, paddling along the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail and bird watching at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. For craft beer lovers, the new version of the Southwest Florida Ale Trail Passport is now available through February 2023, supporting local breweries in Lee, Collier, Charlotte and Hendry counties.
Go to www.visitfortmyers.com.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
Located just east of Orlando, Kennedy Space Center is an active launch area that has seen some of the most important events in history. Guests now have access to restricted areas and, depending on the bus tour they choose, can see the Launch Control Center or working launch pads up close. They can even view the site from which astronauts depart for Mars. Bus tours are included with admission and enhanced experiences are available. Launches occur every other week. Also notable is the Center’s new Artemis project, launching this June, which will see the first African American woman (Jessica Watkins) to walk on the moon.
Go to www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.
NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES
Known as Florida’s Paradise Coast, Naples, Marco Island and Everglades is home to many LGBTQ+ owned and operated businesses. Among these is Celebration Park, Naples’ first-of-its-kind, permanent food truck park in the Bayshore Arts District, featuring an open-air tiki bar on the water, live entertainment and DJs all night long. There’s also bha! bha! Persian Bistro (meaning ‘yum! yum!’ in Iranian), a favourite in the local LGBTQ community, and Sticks & Stones Collection, an LGBTQ-owned home furnishing shop in Naples that offers beautiful live edge and teak root tables, sculptures and mammoth-sized quartz crystals.
Go to www.paradisecoast.com/lgbtq.
- The Orlando Travel Academy has been reimagined featuring a new mobile platform for travel advisors. Graduates will receive a host of benefits, including complimentary or 50% off attraction tickets to SeaWorld Orlando, Kennedy Space Center, Gatorland and more, hotel and attraction discounts, and deals for restaurants, shopping and entertainment.
- Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th anniversary celebration began on Oct. 1, 2021 featuring new nighttime spectaculars, specially-themed entertainment and new attractions like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot
- Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Florida’s fastest and tallest launch coaster, opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, reaching speeds of up to 70 mph and a height of 1,500 feet
- The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, now open, features meeting rooms with rooftop terraces, a restaurant, full-service health club and 90-foot-long pool
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort has renovated all nine floors of its guestrooms featuring a new look inspired by the Disney-Pixar film ‘The Incredibles’
- AC Hotel Orlando Downtown opened earlier this year with a sleek European-inspired design and the SkyBar Rooftop Terrace
- Ice Breaker, SeaWorld Orlando’s first launch coaster, opened in February 2022, featuring a 93-foot-tall spike with 100-degree angle, the steepest vertical drop in Florida
- The largest construction project in airport history is underway at Orlando International Airport, The South Terminal Complex, with phase one (valued at US$3.82 billion) seeing the addition of 15 gates, a state-of-the-art radio frequency baggage system, numerous shops, restaurants and lounge facilities
PANAMA CITY BEACH
- Known as the Seafood Capital of the South, Panama City Beach is home to over 20,000 hotel and self-catering accommodations
- It ranks third on TripAdvisor’s ‘Top Beach in the United States’ list and #2 on its ‘Emerging Destinations in the World’ list
- Opening this year is Embassy Suites Panama City Beach, a 255-room, full-service beach resort featuring gulf views, on-site dining and a free form pool
- Other new properties that have opened across the destination include Hyatt Place, SpringHill Suites, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Candlewood Suites, TownePlace Suites and Hilton Home2 Suites
- SkyWheel recently opened at Panama City Beach’s premier outdoor shopping center, Pier Park
Go to www.VisitPanamaCityBeach.com.
- The brand new AC Hotel Clearwater Beach opened its doors in February 2022 featuring an outdoor pool, the Vue360 rooftop bar, the AC Lounge where guests can enjoy craft beer and tapas-style small plates, and the AC Kitchen, serving European-inspired breakfast each morning
- From Jan. 29-May 22, 2022, The Dalí Museum is expanding its world-renowned collection with a new exclusive exhibit, ‘Picasso and the Allure of the South,’ which includes 79 paintings, drawings and collages, approximately half of which have never been seen in the U.S.
- St. Pete/Clearwater’s beaches have once again made TripAdvisor’s annual list of top beaches, with Treasure Island Beach (#19), St. Pete Beach (#22) and Clearwater Beach (#24) all included in 2022’s traveller-voted lineup
THE PALM BEACHES
Located along Florida’s southeast coast, just one hour north of Miami and two hours southeast of Orlando, The Palm Beaches represent a diverse collection of 39 cities and towns. It’s home to three airports with 2,000 daily flights, over 2,400 restaurants, more than 200 hotels, over 200 museums, theatres and cultural attractions, and 47 miles of beaches. It’s also known as Florida’s Golf Capital with more than 160 public and private golf courses.
In 2021, the destination announced several attraction updates, including a US$30 million expansion of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, the largest regional theatre in the southern half of the United States, and Delray Beach Market, which opened in May 2021 as Florida’s largest food hall with over 25 vendors. Last June also saw the opening of Rohi’s Readery at Rosemary Square, the first social justice-driven children’s bookstore in South Florida. Plus, the Brightline resumed service last November, and a connection between West Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport is expected to open by late 2022, with a stop in Boca Raton also on the horizon.
For travel agents, the destination is offering several hotel discounts, including 25% off at The Chesterfield Palm Beach, 30% off at The Breakers Palm Beach, and 25% off at The Brazillian Court.
Go to www.thepalmbeaches.com.
VISIT CENTRAL FLORIDA
LEGOLAND Florida Resort, home to more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and the all-new The Great LEGO Race, just opened the brand new Peppa Pig Theme Park. Located just steps from LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s front gate, this standalone park boasts multiple rides, attractions, live shows, playscapes and a water play area.The Central Florida region, situated less than 30 minutes to Disney and 75 minutes to Kennedy Space Center, is home to over 7,100 hotel rooms ranging from family-friendly hotels and an award-winning luxury golf resort, to even a dude ranch that offers glamping. It also offers over 7,000 professionally managed vacation condos and homes ranging from two to eight bedrooms, all of which are conveniently located closed to Florida’s beaches and major attractions.
Go to www.visitcentralflorida.com.
VISIT TAMPA BAY
- Visitors can save over 50% on admission to Tampa Bay’s top attractions with CityPASS
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay just debuted the brand new Iron Gwazi, the tallest, steepest and fastest hybrid roller coaster in North America
- ZooTampa at Lowry Park debuted a new multimillion-dollar habitat that expands the ability to treat injured or sick Florida manatees and return them to the wild
- Coming this year is Tampa Bay’s first five-star hotel, the Tampa EDITION, with 172 guestrooms and suites
- The new JW Marriott Tampa Water Street has been completed on Tampa Bay’s waterfront, featuring the stunning SIX rooftop lounge.
- Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Florida’s largest casino, recently completed a US$700 million addition that includes a new 15-floor, 564-room tower with additional rooms and suites and an extra 200,000 square feet of gaming space
Go to VisitTampaBay.com.
To read Travelweek’s Florida Guide, launched in partnership with VISIT FLORIDA, click here.