Do you know what the No. 1 industry is in the state of Florida? That would be tourism.
Walton County Chamber of Commerce celebrated National Tourism Day on Wednesday at their monthly Power of Business Luncheon held at the Hilton Sandestin.
During the luncheon, Chamber President Kellie Jo Kilberg, Walton County Tourist Development Council's Jon Ervin, and guest speaker Paul Phipps, chief marketing officer of Visit Florida, hit home the point that tourism is the main economic engine for the state. During his address, Phipps discussed the current state of tourism and the economic role it plays in Walton County. Attendees learned more about how business is affected by tourism-related trends and how it positively benefits the quality of life for residents of the area.
"Tourism affects everyone in the state, not just the ones who work in the industry," Phipps told them.
Phipps said there are 1.6 million people visiting the state of Florida on any given day.
"Tourism drives the state; it drives commercial development," he said.
Phipps said Florida is ranked No. 1 for family vacations with its closest competitors being New York and California.
Surprising to many, Phipps said that Russians rank in the Top 8 of travelers to Florida, and Brazil has overtaken the U.K. in visiting our state.
"Ninety-five percent that visit Florida come back. We're the leader, but being chased," he said.
He then tackled the question that has been tossed around a lot lately — “Is there a need to market the state?”
"Yes," he said. "There are 32-million visitors to the state each year who are baby boomers. As they age, they will quit traveling so much and we must replace them. We want to get the point across that Florida is not where you go to retire but to experience life. We want it to be a destination for young travelers and families. We want them to know that there is something for everyone in this state. We want to grow it."
Phipps said that Visit Florida does its part in this through storytelling.
"Our mission is to promote and drive tourism. At Visit Florida, we don't sell anything but inspiration. We're about inspiration and telling stories."
Speaking for the TDC, Ervin said his organization is shifting its focus to the shoulder season and recruiting affluent travelers.