How tourism in the Sunshine State is weathering the storm

Last month, I attended the Brand USA Summit, a spirited gathering in Frankfurt where tourism board officials from across America and its territories met with European travel journalists to promote their cities and region.

A number of CEOs from all over Florida crossed my path networking and they were proud to show off areas in their area, from ecotourism in Fort Myers, electric boat tours in Tampa to (this is Florida… ) the zipline on the alligators in Kissimmee. Yet, while we were networking, news was coming to the catwalks about Hurricane Ian’s devastating impact back home.

Two weeks after the devastating storm, the cost of tourism is being counted (in the billions) and some resorts have been virtually wiped out by the impact. But in true Florida spirit, the cleanup is underway, the hotels (and Disneyland) are reopening…and the message from many cities is that Florida is open for business again.

“We have persistent flooding in some residential and non-tourist areas, but all resorts, hotels and vacation rentals are open and fully operational,” says DT Minich, CEO of Experience Kissimmee, the hugely popular tourist town in downtown Florida. “All theme parks are fully reopened and most other attractions as well,” he added. Mr. Minich also pointed out that consumer confidence remains for the state which welcomes more than 100 million visitors a year.

“Long-haul business looks strong for the holiday season,” he added, “and we also have healthy bookings for the first through third quarters of 2023. As air service continues to return and expand from our overseas markets, we’re seeing that additional capacity book up quickly. There’s still a lot of pent-up demand for the US, Florida and Kissimmee.”

Back in Ireland, Florida specialist Tour America is still seeing strong demand for the state. “Florida is one of our top destinations in the United States and we continue to receive many requests for 2022/2023 and beyond,” Tour America CEO Mary McKenna told me this week. “In fact, when we looked at our booking data for 2023, we found that Orlando tops the list as the number one destination in the United States that our customers book.”

Theme parks are proving to be the best type of vacation for Tour America guests in 2023, with Florida attracting all types of vacationers according to McKenna. “Families love beautiful beaches and famous theme parks, while young explorers want to hop into a rental and cruise the Florida Keys. It also attracts a large number of golfers each year, as it has nearly 1,100 courses, spread across the state.

“And of course we can’t forget the weather. Irish holidaymakers love being able to escape the cold and head to sunnier shores, which makes Florida the ideal destination as late winter and early spring are the ideal times to visit this amazing destination.

There’s value too, the operator offers seven-night packages to Orlando from €722 pps while if you fancy DIY travel, Aer Lingus flies to both Miami and Orlando from €396 round trip. Hopefully this winter, tourism in the Sunshine State will continue to shine.

1. Destination Cleveland

Oh hi Ohio! If you’re looking for another USA getaway, how about a trip to Aer Lingus’ final route, Cleveland, famous for its Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Lake Erie beaches. As the only direct link to the city offered by a European airline, the route will strategically offer Ohioans the opportunity to travel to Ireland and Europe via Dublin while enticing Irish travelers to experience the Gateway. from the Midwest hub. Aer Lingus has also just announced the return of the airline’s Dublin-Hartford route which had been suspended during the pandemic. Flights to Connecticut resume from March, providing a convenient option for those with interests between Boston and New York.

2. Dublin’s Newest Hotel

The Maldron Merrion Road

Hotel rooms in Dublin have rarely been so scarce (and expensive), which is why we’re rolling out the red carpet for the new opening in the city. Just opened last week, Maldron Merrion Road is the capital’s latest four-star hotel and offers 140 rooms in its scenic location in the heart of the D4. Attracting the corporate and city-stay market, the seven-story property boasts ‘stunning’ panoramic views of Dublin Bay from Sandymount Strand to Howth, while guests can enjoy the Maldron’s stylish rooms, dine at the restaurant Grain and Grill or order coffee to go. Roasting red beans. Benefit from exceptional B&B rates from €139.

3. Wendy Wu

Fancy a dream getaway in Asia? Irish operator Sunway has teamed up with Wendy Wu, the UK leader in escorted travel, to bring its premium guided tours to the Irish market. Wendy Wu is known for her all-inclusive deals with rates that include everything from food and on-site accommodation to visas that are sorted by their own paperwork team. Expect that to be reflected in the price that puts Wendy Wu in the luxury market; if you fancy immersing yourself in cherry blossoms or climbing Mount Fuji in Japan, their classic eight-day county tour costs €4,800 excl. flights;

4. Hidden Haven

Hidden Haven is a luxury lodge, nestled in a stunning stretch of countryside between Gougane Barra and Glengarriff.
Hidden Haven is a luxury lodge, nestled in a stunning stretch of countryside between Gougane Barra and Glengarriff.

I’ve just been tipped off about another dream getaway in West Cork! The Hidden Haven is a beautifully designed and newly launched luxury lodge, nestled in a stunning stretch of countryside between Gougane Barra and Glengarriff. Overlooking its own lake, the design and comfort-focused property includes everything from organic linens on its oversized king bed, wood-burning stove, clawfoot tub, and outdoor grill. If you stray from those views, pick some blueberries at the on-site organic farm. The Hidden Haven accepts bookings for a minimum of three nights with rates starting at €250 per night.

5. Accommodation offers

November usually offers some of the best hotel rates of the year and I’ve discovered a few hotel deals this week with rates that may give you a hint of nostalgia! The Mills Inn in Ballyvourney has winter rates from €120 per night (and this does not increase for weekend stays), while if you still have a good Blue Book, Butler House in Kilkenny is considered the cheapest property in the collection with midweek rates this month from just €115!

About Bobby F. Lopez

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