07 MAR 2014: What happens when a huge contingent of destination partners from Florida visits us in the Great White North? They talk about the sun and hot weather. In a smart TV show format dubbed “Interview Bites and Surprises” an event host interviewed the partners who called out the hot temps. It got the majority of us thinking maybe we should all be there. NOW.


LMA Communications, the Canadian PR agency for Visit Florida, hosted a media event SUNsets and Surprises: Expect the Unexpected, at the Windsor Arms Hotel last week.

Survey says


A Florida visitor study report says 82 percent of Canadians head to Florida for pleasure, recreation, and holidays.

The major type of lodging we like is a hotel (28.2%).

And for average length of stay we prefer long visits try 20.1 nights. The study also states we stay longer than any other visitor.

In a nutshell


We love Florida and continue to hold the number one spot for international visitors visiting the Sunshine State.

Overall Florida had a 4.1 percent increase of Canadians last year compared to visitor numbers in 2012. Last year 3.7 million Canadians went to Florida.

Preliminary data from Smith Travel Research also indicates Florida tourism has been steadily regaining market share since January 2013 outpacing the rest of the US by 1.3 percentage points. According to the same study room revenue in Florida for 2013 was up 8.2 percent compared to 2012 while the US is only up 6.2 percent.

Now for some of the unexpected:

Kissimmee


Close to Orlando and a convenient hub to all the area has to offer. Kissimmee is Florida’s gateway to fun it will fit the client who wants theme parks and lots more.

There’s a zip line that tears through Gatorland and a crazy ride known as the SkyCoaster at Funspot USA. Considered the world’s tallest sky coaster it drops riders 300 feet in seconds. Then there’s the scary ghost house that looks more like a zombie set at Old Town.

“Legends, a Haunting of Old Town is based on a funeral parlour,” says Nori Rodriguez media relations rep from Experience Kissimmee about the new attraction.

For other thrills wake up early for a fabulous hot air balloon ride to see the sunrise. From this vantage point see Disney’s Magic Kingdom and the other theme parks.

For deals check out the Canadian Deals section of their website

Daytona Beach

Fans of NASCAR know Dale Earnhardt Junior is the winner of this year’s famous Daytona 500 which just took place. Now the home of NASCAR and the Daytona International Speedway is getting a makeover. The $400 million renovation includes replacing half a century year old seats among other changes.

The Harley Davidson crowd is heading to the sandy stretch for its annual Bike Week pilgrimage in March. Kerry Martin a rep from Discover Daytona Beach tells me the lucky ones get to ride around the speedway.

The iconic beach popular among car buffs driving up and down the strip in designated spots now has a rollercoaster known as the Sand Blaster. Kerry says the coaster located at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier opened last summer and was hauled in from the northern US “The beach is a fun family spot,” she says.

Only an hour north from Orlando the sun and sand there also holds another surprise. Look for the opening of a new art gallery next year known as the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art situated at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. It will feature the world’s largest collection of Florida art.

Orlando

The home of America’s favourite theme parks is gaining a new clientele: foodies. One of the surprises as of late is the thriving dining scene. Daina Astwood-George, account manager with APEX Public Relations and Visit Orlando, says the city recently hosted the James Beard 2014 Restaurant and Chef Semi-finals. Guess what? Four local chefs have made it to the semi-finals.

Theatre fans can head soon to downtown Orlando to the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The $429 million venue scheduled to open this fall is the home for Broadway productions and the Orlando Ballet.

For discounts Visit Orlando has a “Deals Made For Canadians” programme.

“Orlando is the place a family can come and experience everything together. There’s a little bit of everything,” says Heide Colon, group publicity representative with Visit Orlando.

Citrus County


Home of the manatee Crystal River which is situated in west Florida is the only place in the US where you can legally interact with manatees. “You can swim with them but aren’t actually allowed to reach out and touch them,” says Katharina Lane, a rep with Hayworth PR and Plantation on Crystal River, an eco-resort located on the Nature Coast of Florida.

Fort Lauderdale


Move over craft breweries. The March Break crowd and brew lovers can enjoy the suds over at the Funky Buddha, only the largest craft brewery in southeast Florida says Jessica Savage media relations director for the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB.

“They have a tasting room and brewery tours and at any given time they’ll have about twenty different kinds of beer on tap.” A quirky twist on dorm living find beers called Peanut Butter and Jelly or Pina Colada.

Florida’s sunsets and surprises are only a short plane ride away. Canadians have easy access with Air Canada, Sunwing or WestJet and a number of US carriers.


author

Ilona Kauremszky

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

Read more from Ilona Kauremszky

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