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Tourism alive and kicking in Hernando County

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According to the US Department of State and the US Census Bureau, only 10 percent of Americans owned a passport in 1990. Today, that figure has reached 42 percent but is largely the result of the 9/11 attacks and new laws ruling that Americans could no longer travel to and from Canada, Mexico and nearby Caribbean countries. It’s also a fact that the majority of Americans have never been outside the US.

That’s because Americans think there’s no place quite like home.

America is so culturally and geographically diverse, why bother with crowded airports, long flights and complicated visa requirements to visit overseas destinations when from coast to coast, America has it all — “From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam.” Within the United States; the State of Florida is one of the top destinations, with more than a third of all adults intending to visit within the next two years.

Figures released by VISIT FLORIDA in January 2018 on the economic impact of visitors to Florida show that in 2016, out-of-state visitor spending in Florida reached a record $112 billion, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year.

Gov. Rick Scott said, “It is great news that Florida has reached yet another tourism record with a historic $112 billion in visitor spending in 2016. Florida’s tourism industry helps support more than 1.4 million jobs across our state and is a major driver in our growing economy.”

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In Hernando County, Tammy Heon, the Manager of Tourism Development for Hernando County, who oversees the Florida‘s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau, attributes the continued growth of visitors to our county as the result of a recent rebranding initiative, an increase in outdoor recreational activities offered and consistently good marketing.

Still part of the eight-county Nature Coast region, Hernando County was rebranded in 2015 and renamed Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville – Weeki Wachee, with the tagline “Nature’s Place to Play.”

“I’m very proud to represent the people and places that make this destination so special,” Heon said. “Recent economic impact numbers from Visit Florida, which tracks only out-of-state visitation, showed an increase of $12.4 million in total tourism related business; which corresponds with 832 additional jobs and a $30 million increase in payroll from 2015 to 2016 alone. Sales taxes generated by out-of-state visitors total $39 million, with $10.3 million going to the state and $8.2 million to Hernando County.

Heon said  “What attracts visitors to our county are its natural assets; I’m fond of saying what we sell is the great outdoors, which is why our tagline, “Nature’s Place to Play” is so appropriate. The two most requested pieces of information in our visitors centers are for kayaking and cycling. Fishing, scallop diving and boating are also extremely popular activities on Florida’s Adventure Coast. And, of course, no visit is complete without a visit to see the world-famous Mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

“Right now, our bureau is gearing up to celebrate the 35th annual National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW),” said Heon.
National Travel and Tourism Week in 2018 is being held May 6 to 12 — “it’s when travel and tourism professionals nationwide unite to celebrate the value travel holds for our local economies, businesses and personal wellbeing,” she said.

Each year during NTTW, the Visitors Bureau offers an opportunity for both education and celebration; sharing these opportunities with our partners. This year, Heon is hosting a FAMenger Hunt, a combination Familiarization Tour and Scavenger Hunt.

“This entertaining, interactive game allows front-line hospitality employees to become more familiar with the destination while having fun, visiting other partners and enjoying free gifts and prizes,” she said.

The game runs through the entire month of May allowing everyone plenty of time to visit the participating businesses and enjoy the game. A grand prize drawing will be held Friday, June 1; grand prizes include a stay at Chinsegut Hill, dinner for two or a $250 gift certificate. For more information or to download the flyer, visit FloridasAdventureCoast.com.

We’ve added some powerful new tools to our website and social media programs; our social media feeds and calendar of events are now displayed right on the home page of FloridasAdventureCoast.com,” said Heon.

Adding UGC, or User Generated Content allows us to display the posts and photos of visitors enjoying the destination, which is incredibly powerful in tourism marketing. In fact, studies have shown that social media and online reviews are the number two resource for vacation planning, second only to referrals from family and friends. Displaying this content on our home page allows us to capitalize on it; increasing he visibility of many of our partners as well. In addition, we now have a calendar of events on our home page which is populated directly from the Facebook Events feed, allowing all of our partners to publish their events directly to our page by simply creating the event on their Facebook page; something they’re already doing.  

Funds for the Visitors Bureau are derived from the TDT, also known as “bed tax” revenue, a five percent surcharge on all transient  accommodations (hotels, motels, vacation home rentals,  bed & breakfast inns,  campgrounds  and other lodging leased for six months or less) within Hernando County.

Tammy J. Heon, Manager, Tourism Development
Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville-Weeki Wachee can be contacted at 15800 Flight Path Drive, Brooksville, FL 34604 / Phone: 352.754.4405 / Cell: 352.942.9466

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