Visit Florida

Not-so-sexy beaches, a la Billy Corben

WARNING — It’s difficult to watch, but Miami filmmaker Billy Corben‘s tongue-in-cheek video playing off a somewhat less controversial Pitbull “Sexy Beaches” spot for Visit Florida is a must-see.

Corben’s clip stars the green slime that’s inundated Florida waterways and the dead fish, manatees and other creatures killed off by the effects of red tide creeping along both coastlines.

Visit Florida drew heat for a controversial contract inked with Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull. The secrecy involving the $1 million contract with Pitbull cost the head of the public-private tourism agency his job late in 2016. Pitbull revealed the terms of the contract on Twitter, showing Visit Florida had paid him $1 million to pimp the state on social media, at concerts and on a “Sexy Beaches” video.

Florida Dems pimped Corben’s video, pointing the finger at Gov. Rick Scott (as does the film pastiche) for the toxic water situation that’s making people sick, closing Florida beaches and shuttering shore-front businesses. As widespread as they are, the red tide and toxic algae outbreaks could be problematic for Scott, a Republican trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the race for the U.S. Senate.

For a flashback to what the state’s #SexyBeaches once looked like, check out Pitbull’s video.

Ravaged Keys bullseye of Florida tourism marketing plan

There’s still no price tag on the economic impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida’s tourism industry, but Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration yesterday announced an “aggressive new marketing” plan to lure back to the state.

Here’s a deeper dive into Visit Florida’s post-storm message:

— The online and broadcast campaign will start this week and run for about a month, leading into the state’s public-private tourism agency’s traditional winter marketing.

— The Florida Keys will get a lot of play “once our partners there have indicated they are ready to welcome visitors back.”

Scott wants the state’s tourism mecca up-and-running again by Oct. 1.

And with the state having to scramble to top last year’s 113 million visitors, Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson described the marketing plan on Tuesday as one that will showcase “sunshine, blue skies and good times.”

Here’s more from Visit Florida:

— Phase one: “Florida is open for business.”

Sharing our partners’ content on social media as they post messages post-Irma.

Streaming live video broadcasts from locations across the state to targeted domestic and international audiences.

Deploying production teams across the state to develop video content that we will post and promote on social channels, YouTube and Digital TV.

Sponsoring social media efforts to encourage state-wide usage of #LoveFL by Florida residents.

Activating international tour operators in core international markets to manage any potential misperceptions of damage and encourage continuation of bookings, especially in the upcoming high booking month of October.

Reaching out to influencers and journalists who have been hosted on press trips to share their experiences from areas they visited.

— Phase two: “more traditional advertising tactics.”

Launching a multi-channel paid-media campaign that could include platforms such as billboards, digital transportation banners, social, online travel agencies, promotions, broadcast, YouTube and a co-branded media partnership.

Increasing our “Share a Little Sunshine” advocacy program to send advocates to local areas and connect with local Instagram communities to create InstaMeets across the state, in which Instagrammers meet up to take photos and videos of a certain area that they share in a branded effort.

Working with influencers to travel to areas around the state and share the message that Florida is sunny and open for business.


By Jim Turner.

Visit Florida chief targets Great White North: “I think we took this market for granted”

Lawson-headshot_editFlush with a renewed bucket of state bucks, Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson is refocusing his efforts on bringing Canadian snowbirds — and their cash — south.

In Toronto this week, Lawson admitted the public-private tourism agency had neglected its neighbors to the north.

“I think we took our eyes off the ball,” Lawson said, in report by Travelweek Group posted yesterday. “I think we took this market for granted.”

Lawson said his agency intends to “double-down” on the land of William Shatner, Bobby Orr and Justin Bieber.

“We have the snowbirds with their Florida vacation homes. They’re kind of like ‘we’ve been there, done that.’ We have new Canadians. And we have the Millennials, and they’re saying ‘we don’t want to do what our grandparents did,’ ” Lawson, in Toronto for meetings with travel industry leaders, was quoted as saying.

“Sure we have Disney, we have the beaches,” Lawson continued. “But are we marketing the rest of Florida? We have craft breweries, bike trails, people can swim with a manatee, we have culture … these things matter, and they connect with Canadians.”

Tourism officials, noting Florida has increased its marketing efforts in Canada, have been blamed declining Canadian visitor numbers on a weaker Canadian dollar.

Canadians accounted for 3.2 million of Florida’s visitors in 2016, down from more than 4 million in 2011.

And while drawing 31.1 million domestic and international visitors during the first three months of this year — the highest number during any quarter in state history — the number of Canadian tourists dropped 2.2 percent, compared to the same period in 2016.

Visit Florida’s goal “is to make sure we’re diverse in our marketing, and that we’re connecting,” Lawson said in the Travelweek Group report. “That’s why I’m here.”

 — Posted by Jim Turner.

Early bird special for outgoing Visit Florida chairman? Oui!

William “Bill” Talbert expects he’ll have some time on his hands in the coming weeks to cross the peninsula and visit the restaurant of his successor leading the Visit Florida board of directors.

BillTalbertBut the menu may have to be expanded to meet his tastes.

“Madam chair, I can’t wait to be at your restaurant,” Talbert told Maryann Ferenc, a downtown Tampa restaurateur who will officially become chairwoman of the Visit Florida board on Saturday. “I’m going to want to have the early bird special at your restaurant the next time I’m there.”

The exchange occurred during a Visit Florida teleconference Tuesday.

Ferenc, co-owner of the upscale Mise en Place, told Talbert replied that she’ll have to adapt her menu to accommodate her predecessor.


“I’ll create one for you, Bill,” Ferenc said.

According to the tony restaurant’s website, Chef (and co-owner) Marty Blitz follows two masters: “the season and Marty’s whim.”

As for his time as chairman, Talbert said that after a of “transition,” that has seen the agency downsized and its funding threatened, he doesn’t believe he’d have done anything different at the helm.

“I can’t say that necessary I was the right chair, but I’ve been honored to serve,” said Talbert, who is also the president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Visit Florida was in the line of fire for House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other GOP House members, inflamed by the agency’s spending on marketing contracts, including a $1 million deal with Miami rapper Pitbull.

The House wanted to eliminate the tourism agency’s funding, before finally agreeing to a Gov. Rick Scott‘s $76 million request during a special session earlier this month. Scott had waged an all-out campaign to fund the agency.

Talbert said Tuesday that, as chairman he spoke “face to face” with Scott at least twice a month.

“My goal as chair in leading the board was to maintain the institution and to maintain the funding,” said Talbert. “While there’s been an up and down process, and quite a ride, but I want to thank the board. You traveled to Tallahassee. You testified. You sent emails. You did social media. That all made a difference.”

Posted by Jim Turner.

What goes around comes around, Scott style

Gov. Rick Scott named John Tupps as his new comms director  Thursday, putting Tupps back into the office where his political career with the Republican governor sprouted.

On July 5, Tupps will take over for Jackie Schutz Setzman, another Scott loyalist who will assume the position of chief of staff after Kim McDougal leaves on July 1.

Thursday’s announcement sends Tupps back to his home roots in the governor’s office, where he served after Scott took over in 2011. Tupps previously held positions as Scott’s deputy press secretary, press secretary and then deputy director of communications.

The promotion might be viewed by some as the reversal of jumping from the frying pan to the fire.

Tupps is now the vice president of government relations for the embattled VISIT FLORIDA agency, under fire by House Speaker Richard Corcoran for spending decisions.

Lawmakers budgeted $25 million for the public-private agency for the next fiscal year,  far short of Scott’s request for $100 million. Lawmakers also issued a new set of Visit Florida operational guidelines about travel and marketing contracts.

The tourism agency received $78 million for the current year, but has been under blasted by Corcoran and others over its $11.6 million sponsorship of a cooking show hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, a $1 million contract with rapper Pitbull, and ongoing sponsorship deals with London-based Fulham Football Club and an IMSA racing team.

Given Tupps’s long history with the Scott administration, the governor’s  decision to promote the spokesman for an agency in House leadership’s crosshairs may have nothing to do with the governor’s fight with Corcoran. But some may interpret the move as an effort by Scott to reward those who stick up for his priorities.

“John has demonstrated an incredible commitment to supporting our mission of making Florida the top destination for businesses, families and visitors. He has been a part of my administration since my first year in office and over the past six years, he has worked tirelessly to serve our state. I know John will use this experience and dedication each day to lead my communications efforts as we continue to fight for Florida jobs,” Scott said in a statement.