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Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014
Commentary

Tourism is an opportunity to tell our story


Published:

Theme parks, palm trees and sandy white beaches may be the first images that come to mind when considering tourism in Florida, yet there are many additional possibilities for Floridians and visitors to discover the Sunshine State’s vast history.

As organizations committed to promoting our state’s vast cultural and heritage tourism opportunities, VISIT FLORIDA and the Florida Department of State have come together to celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week. By highlighting the importance of our state’s historical significance, the perception of Florida is expanded.

Florida’s Native American heritage dates back more than 12,000 years, and Spain’s claim to Florida in 1513 began a new era of uniting the world’s cultures to form the great nation we know today as the United States of America. On any given day, Florida is host to 1.7 million visitors — more than the individual population of 12 U.S. states.

Each visitor represents an opportunity to share Florida’s history through cultural heritage tourism. In fact, a recent study from VISIT FLORIDA found that 65 percent of visitors to the state participate in culturally based activities. Florida’s story is key to the nation’s story, and as this story is shared, the economy is strengthened and visitors gain a broader understanding of the state’s deep history and diverse culture.

As Florida’s No. 1 industry, tourism is vital to our economy. Every 85 visitors supports one Florida job. When the tourism industry is strong, the economy is strengthened, and employment opportunities are increased. Economic benefits are not only realized in job opportunities for Florida families, but also in direct dollars spent.

Last year, the Department of State kicked off Viva Florida 500, a multi-year statewide initiative to educate and inspire Floridians and visitors about the history and diverse culture of our state. Viva Florida is not possible without the more than 2,000 partnerships involved, including many statewide Destination Marketing Organizations.

Residents and visitors are responsive to cultural activities. A recent study found that from August 2012 to August 2013, more than $2.5 billion in direct spending was attributed to cultural and heritage tourism activities in Florida. This number shows that the Florida experience can incorporate many educational and historical sites across the state while also bolstering our economy.

By continuing to promote cultural and historical experiences coast to coast, Floridians and visitors will gain new knowledge about our past. When visiting a significant archaeological site, a majestic lighthouse or an interactive museum in Florida, unforgettable memories and impressions are made daily. In fact, Florida’s more than 400 museums serve 31 million visitors each year.

In Florida, our strength is found in our diversity. As our state continues to be a top tourist destination, we can draw upon this diversity to increase the visibility and visitation to the Sunshine State.

Cultural heritage tourism elevates the sites and events that have shaped Florida and consequently have shaped our nation. Those who visit our theme parks and bask in the splendor of our beaches can also explore all that Florida has to offer by experiencing that our story is foundational to our nation’s history.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner leads the Florida Department of State, serving artists, archivists, preservationists, librarians, corporate officers, voters and more through the divisions of Administrative Services, Corporations, Cultural Affairs, Elections, Historical Resources, and Library and Information Services. As president and chief executive officer, Will Seccombe leads the state’s official destination marketing organization in partnership with the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors and the statewide tourism industry.

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