Why Florida must manage tourism assets like a finite commodity
Antonio Fins | The Palm Beach Post, Fla. | May 2, 2016 2:52pm
April 30--You may have read about the Walt Disney Co.'s tiered ticket pricing -- where Mickey charges more for tickets bought for peak seasons and less for slower periods.
You may also have read that Florida tripped two demographic thresholds last year -- we topped 20 million residents and 100 million tourists for the first time.
Put two and two together and you'll understand the population conundrum facing the Sunshine State.
The Florida peninsula is brimming with more people than ever. And it's only a matter of time before our top attractions, our 740 miles of accessible beaches and our very popular theme parks, become so crowded they lose their tourism magnetism.
I can tell you, as a Disney World lifer, those parks are getting really crowded. And much can be said about our popular beaches, not to mention nearby parking.
So, you can see why Florida's most popular tourist attractions would turn to ticket pricing to manage their turnstiles. But Disney isn't the only one concerned about how to manage the tourism flow.
At VisitFlorida, president and CEO Will Seccombe is talking about managing macro-growth, too. Principally, how should Florida steer people to less frequented Sunshine State destinations?
"We can get a lot of benefit from changing some of the messaging and the storytelling, said Seccombe. "To get someone to stay one extra day to do something they didn't know about would be huge."
Business Reporter Jennifer Sorentrue has written plenty about how Discover the Palm Beaches is working along those lines -- most recently, about culinary tours. Add, too, the efforts to draw more meetings and conventions with the Hilton West Palm Beach convention center hotel now in place.
She's also written an anthology about All Aboard Florida's Brightline passenger train project, which would take pressure off roads and congestion. So would development of regional airports to ease the strain of growth on the major hubs.
But Seccombe said it's not just about infrastructure.
"They are components of an overall solution, but they aren't the answer," he said.
Instead, one goal is to get tourists in Florida to spend more money per capita, thereby focusing more on dollars spent versus head count. Seccombe points out that last year tourists in Florida spent $7.1 billion more than in 2014.
Other solutions: Promoting off-the-beaten path amenities, literally, like kayaking, biking and hiking to outdoors types.
Another is luring more people to come in "off-season" months -- though I fear August's swelter and September's peak hurricane season timeframes are going to be a harder sell.
Still, Florida has to maximize and manage tourism like a precious commodity with finite capacity.
"Tourism is to Florida as oil is to Texas," Seccombe said.