A Taste of Florida Brings Sunshine to Toronto

VISIT FLORIDA and 13 destination partners wrapped up a two city A Taste of Florida roadshow at Hotel X Toronto last night to give insights into the “diverse array of unforgettable experiences” that await travellers.

“Canada is a very important market for Florida – in fact, historically, it has been one of our top international markets, with more than 1.6 million Canadians visiting the State in 2020,” said Aelon Suskey, senior account executive, global marketing and trade for VISIT FLORIDA. “But we know there is much more for Canadian travellers to explore in the Sunshine State, which is why we are all here in Canada this week.”

Suskey told PressToday that travel advisors are extremely important to VISIT FLORIDA, which represents a destination with 1,327 kilometres of beaches.

“These events [shine] a light on some of Florida’s many amazing hidden gems that will appeal to Canadians looking for new experiences in a destination they already know so well,” she said. 

Jeanette Faria, account manager — Canada for Fort Myers, shared that there’s a lot that’s new, including a fresh new name from The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel to Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighbourhoods complete with a new website. Faria said the rebrand is much more emotion based, carves out an identity that goes beyond the beach and is all about having a good day in the destination. Notably, Faria said Air Canada and WestJet both have year round service to Fort Myers and never stopped providing lift during the pandemic.

Heading to Miami, Debra Lee, director of travel industry sales for Greater Miami and Miami Beach, said the city has 17 new hotels, 30 new places to dine and five new attractions including Skyviews Miami, an observation wheel providing scenic views from 200 feet above Bayside Marketplace. Many new properties recently opened near PortMiami, ideal for the cruise market, and two unique options opening this summer are properties by Netherlands-based CitizenM in Brickell and downtown.

Over at Kennedy Space Center, global sales and marketing manager Frank Da Costa highlighted that visitors will be able to catch a launch every week, which is a bucket list experience for many. The visitor complex is about to open a new attraction called Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex featuring four deep space journeys. Notably, visitors will be able to view Elon Musk’s SpaceX during a visit to Kennedy Space Center.

Walt Disney World Resort is ringing in its 50th anniversary with an 18-month-long celebration. For a new adventure, wholesale sales manager Janet Rivard highlighted that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind debuts on May 27 at EPCOT. Rivard is reminding agents to reserve a Disney Park Pass prior to booking vacation packages and admission tickets to ensure clients gain entry to the parks, which have capacity limits.

For those looking for a unique experience, Terry Gatwick, sales and marketing manager for Discover Crystal River, says the manatee capital of the world is the only place in Florida to legally swim with the marine mammals. Gatwick stressed that the visits take place in the wild and practice safe observation where participants aren’t allowed to touch the manatees.

Over in Experience Kissimmee, Denise Graham, account manager, Canada, is reminding all travellers to plan ahead for vacation home rentals. Although there are some 50,000 homes available, she said they’ve seen a huge increase in demand and space is booking quickly for holidays and special events. Graham noted that airlift to Orlando has remained strong with Air Canada and WestJet, and Swoop is now flying into Orlando Sanford International Airport from Hamilton as well.

Rosemarie Payne, director, leisure travel for St. Pete/Clearwater said spring training for the Toronto Blue Jays was back in full swing this year. Noting that the destination is “not your grandparent’s Florida,” Payne said there’s lots to discover like the oldest craft brewery in Florida, the Dunedin Brewery — part of a craft beer trail called the Gulp Coast — and restaurants like Pier Tiki, a rooftop tiki bar on the pier.

Meanwhile on Florida’s Paradise Coast, representing Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades, Claudia Cianfero, travel industry sales manager pointed out that the iconic Naples Beach Hotel, first established in 1946, will debut as a Four Seasons with 200 rooms as well as residences. Describing the county as a luxury destination, Cianfero compared Marco Island to being in the Caribbean with its shade of blue waters and dolphins.

Stefanie Zinke, director of global sales for Visit Tampa Bay, says Canadians may not know that the city is big in the cruise scene, making it an ideal spot for pre or post cruise visits. Zinke said the Canadian market is very important and is showing signs of recovery. There are over 3,000 new rooms that have been added during the pandemic and development is currently underway for its first five star hotel. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino recently completed a US$700 million addition including a 15-floor, 564-room tower. For a good deal, travellers can book a Tampa Riverwalk attraction pass for up to 50% off eight attractions with easy transit on the free electric street car linking the historic Ybor City with downtown.

For anyone looking for an off-the-beaten-path Florida experience, Helen Adami recommends Panama City Beach, known for its 27 miles of sugary white sand beaches and emerald green waters. The director of destination sales revealed that the destination is well known by locals but is more undiscovered in the international market. Travellers will soon have a plethora of lodging options with numerous big brand hotel developments in the pipeline.

Paul Larcher, account manager, Canada for The Palm Beaches, said seasonal airfare to the area remained strong from Montreal and Toronto with Air Canada. In connectivity news, Brightline, a privately run inter-city rail route between Miami and West Palm Beach, is expanding service to Orlando, launching in 2022/2023. The South Florida Express line is also expanding from Miami to PortMiami as well as with new stations in Aventura and Boca Raton. Future expansion plans have also been announced to extend from Orlando to Disney Springs and Tampa.

Home to over 490 hotels, there’s always something new in Orlando according to Tom Valley, travel industry sales director, North America, for Visit Orlando. New additions include The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve and Lake Nona Wave Hotel. In attraction updates, Jurassic World VelociCoaster, dubbed the fastest coaster at Universal Resorts, is now open. The city will be hosting U.S. Travel Association’s IPW 2022 in June.

Meanwhile, in Central Florida, tourism sales representative Al Snow pointed out that Polk County is home to the world’s only Peppa Pig Theme Park, more than 500 lakes and 300 miles of hiking trails.

Pictured at the event are:

1) Aelon Suskey, senior account executive, global marketing and trade for VISIT FLORIDA, and Lea-Ann Goltz, account manager, Canada, VISIT FLORIDA.

2) VISIT FLORIDA and destination delegates strike a pose at the Hotel X Toronto on April 28.