TORONTO — It was an evening of wheeling and dealing during the Toronto stop of VISIT FLORIDA’s cross-Canada road show, with travel agents taking part in a high-stakes game for amazing prizes.
Taking place yesterday, March 29, at The Westin Toronto Airport, the event welcomed 70 travel agents who sipped on signature mimosas and participated in several rounds of ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ during which they rolled the dice for either a high-value prize pack or a ‘zonk,’ just like the hit TV game show.
But even those who lucked out went home with a prize bag of goodies, not to mention selling tips and updates from Florida partners about exciting new offerings in the Sunshine State in 2023.
The road show, which visited Calgary for the first time earlier this week and heads to Montreal today, comes perfectly timed with Florida’s rebound, particularly from Canada, which has historically been Florida’s top international market. According to VISIT FLORIDA, more than 1.7 million Canadians visited the state in 2022, one million of whom arrived during Q4, an increase of 278% from the same quarter in 2021. And although this number falls short of the approximate 4.088 million Canadians in 2019, the organization says things are certainly heading in the right direction, with 137.6 million total visitors arriving in 2022, representing an increase of 5% over 2019 and 12.9% over 2021.
Noting how Canadian travel advisors have always been important partners, representatives from VISIT FLORIDA highlighted the many ways the organization lends it support, including special event and fam opportunities, webinars and e-newsletter updates from local partners and participation at various trade shows and events.
VISIT FLORIDA is also known for its Travel Pro Program, available in both English and French and comprising essential training courses, as well as specialization modules for Road Trips, Ecotourism, LGBTQ+, Accessibility and, just launched this month, Luxury Stays & Experiences. Agents who complete the program become certified as Florida Travel Pros and gain access to priority events, fam invitation and a toolset complete with itinerary ideas, a supplier directory, targeted sales support and more.
Those in attendance yesterday also toasted to Brightline Express’s new Orlando service, which will travel onwards to Tampa Bay. Already connecting travellers to Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, the inner-city rail route will open a new Orlando station in the state-of-the-art Intermodal Terminal Facility at Orlando International later this year. Agents can register to receive discount codes at www.GoBrightline.com.
Other new updates from local partners include the following:
- The 12-storey Max Beach Resort recently opened with 72 one-, two- and three-bedroom residence-style suites
- The north Esplanade on the Riverfront Esplanade is now open, with the south Esplanade opening in 2023
FORT MYERS ISLANDS, BEACHES & NEIGHBORHOODS
- Just six months after Hurricane Ian devastated its shores, Fort Myers is well on its way to recovery, with 70% of hotel accommodations (9,825 rooms) already reopened
- Beaches are once again open following Hurricane Ian, including Gasparilla Island beaches, Tarpon Bay Beac hand Blind Pass Beach on Sanibel Island
- A phased reopening approach of beach parks will begin in March, April and May
- Opening this fall is the 254-room Margaritaville Beach Resort, the first resort to open on Fort Myers Beach in many years
GREATER MIAMI & MIAMI BEACH
- Miami’s very first MICHELIN Guide, launched in June 22, includes 11 MICHELIN Star-rated restaurants and 19 Bib Gourmand
- Phase One of The Underline, a linear park, urban trail and living art destination, opened in 2021 with butterfly gardens and outdoor ‘rooms’ for basketball, chess, soccer and meditation
- NAPLES GRANDE BEACH RESORT
- Located within a 200-acre nature preserve and mangrove estuary and situated among three consecutive miles of beaches, this resort off the coast of Naples is ideal for watersports, swimming and sunbathing
- Rhode’s End Beach Bar and Clam Pass Beach have officially reopened following Hurricane Ian
VISIT CENTRAL FLORIDA
- The world’s only Peppa Pig Theme Park is celebrating its first anniversary in 2023
- Central Florida is a sensory-inclusion destination with Peppa Pig Theme Park being the first theme park in the U.S. to be designated as a Certified Autism Center, followed by the addition of LEGOLAND Florida Resort
- The 183-acre Bonnet Springs Park opened in Lakeland in late 2022 and is also home to the new Florida Children’s Museum
ST. PETE CLEARWATER FLORIDA
- The historic Vinoy Hotel in downtown St. Petersburg will rebrand as a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel following renovations
- JW Marriott Clearwater Beach is slated to open in 2023 and will boast views of the Gulf of Mexico
- Gladys Douglas Preserve in Dunedin, the Spring Training home of the Toronto Blue Jays, is the newest green space project in St. Pete/Clearwater
WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT
- Opening on April 4, 2023 in Magic Kingdom is TRON Lightcycle / Run, one of the fastest roller coasters in the world
- Debuting last year in 2022, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is a first-of-its-kind, two-night adventure
- Roundup Rodeo BBQ, a new western-themed, family-style restaurant in Toy Story Land, allows diners to see the world through the eyes of Andy’s toys
- Located just minutes from Orlando International Airport, Kissimmee is known as the ‘Vacation Home Capital of the World’ with more than 50,000 vacation homes, all of which are commissionable to travel agents
- Aside from being within close proximity to Florida’s biggest theme parks, Kissimmee offers an extensive array of outdoor experiences, including paddleboarding in the Everglades, airboating, ziplining, treetop trekking and hot air ballooning with Orlando Balloon Rides
For more information about Florida go to www.visitfloridatravelpro.com and www.visitflorida.com.