28 OCT 2016: If scares of the Zika virus and hurricanes are enough to turn off clients from visiting one of Canada’s favourite winter sun spots, have them do a rethink.

According to Visit Florida, the official tourism marketing corporation for the Sunshine state, last year 105 million visitors enjoyed the sunny climate and all the spin-offs associated with warm weather. Compared to arrival figures released in 2014, Visit Florida reports a 6.6 percent increase in 2015.

Visit Florida estimates 4 million Canadians visited the Sunshine State last year, ranking Canada as number one in international visitor arrivals.

A group of Florida tourism representatives were in town last week to showcase some of the new, tried and true, and plain extraordinary attractions.

Here’s the scoop on some:

The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel

Lee Rose, communications manager for the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau, shines a huge grin, when asked about his latest visitation numbers. “We’ve had a surge in Canadian arrivals, double digit visitation over the last 3-4 years.”

Why? Canadians are looking for a change of pace from typical ‘been there and done that’ in Florida says Rose. “We have a very natural quiet setting for families and couples. It’s all about the nature and history.”

Neat factoid: You know there’s magic in this sandy shoreline if inventors and industrialists like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford vacationed there. The two American legends had winter estates which are open to the public (http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/).

Logistics: For non-stop seasonal service, watch for WestJet and the upcoming Air Canada service. Clients arrive at the Southwest Florida International Airport and can drive a short 30 minutes to either Sanibel Island or Fort Myers Beach.
For more details https://www.leevcb.com

Florida’s Paradise Coast

Anytime the word ‘paradise’ is used to describe a destination, it brings to mind a complete utopia where problems and issues do not exist.

For this easily accessible sun spot, Carlyn Topkin, a Florida’s Paradise Coast rep, discussed how agents can get that paradise feel. “We include Naples, Marco Island, and the Everglades.”  

For Naples, think high end luxury with shopping, white sandy beaches, and amazing sunsets.  For Marco Island, agents can consider this islet as more family-friendly with its Caribbean-like vibe. In January, the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort will open after a US$300-million renovation, becoming the first JW Marriott beach resort in the continental United States.

The Everglades stands out on its own. An easy 45-minute drive from Naples, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy kayaking, birding and the swamp walks among other activities.

Neat factoid: Everglades City with a tiny population of around 500 residents is considered the stone crab capital of the world.

Logistics: About three hours from Tampa or two hours from Miami. http://www.paradisecoast.com/

Experience Kissimmee

Where’s the Vacation Home Capital of the World? Try in the backyard of Orlando. A popular tourist destination, Kissimmee which has held the moniker as the “Gateway to Fun” now has so many vacation home options. Andrew Ricketts of VoX International, the PR agency that handles Experience Kissimmee in Canada says, “They range from mansions with bowling alleys to townhouses to single complex units.”

Neat factoid: While Experience Kissimmee reports 2.1 million international arrivals, Toronto ranks as the top market.

Logistics: There are affordable flights starting as low as $350 return to Orlando. Plenty of airlines to choose from like Air Canada, WestJet, and Sunwing.

For more travel information visit www.VisitFlorida.org or www.VisitFlorida.com or see their corporate blog

Visit Florida
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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