Canadian visitation to Florida has dropped nearly 25 percent during the past four years. Pictured are tourists on the boardwalk in Hollywood, Florida. J.Byerly / Flickr
Consider Visit Florida’s challenges — the weak Canadian dollar, hurricane damage, and President Trump’s America-first rhetoric — in trying to convince Canadians to vacation in the state at the levels they did several years ago.
Last year, 3.3 million Canadian travelers visited Florida, down nearly 25 percent from the 4.1 million Canadians that arrived in Florida in 2013. The Canadian dollar has fallen sharply against the U.S. dollar since 2013, and currently sits at about $1 Canadian to $1.27 U.S.
Canada is still Florida’s largest international visitors’ market. The currency fluctuations mean a Canadian vacation to the United States is nearly 33 percent more expensive in 2017 than it was in 2013.
To prod Canadians to return and to convince that their dollars can still go far, Visit Florida has debuted a Canadian Power Play Program.
The program is part of Visit Florida’s ongoing marketing campaign aimed at telling Canadians that the state is affordable for families, and offers more things to do than theme parks or beaches.
Some 26 of Visit Florida’s partners, including Air Canada, hotels and local attractions, are offering Canadians 20 percent discounts as part of the program and campaign at LoveFlorida.ca.
Post-Irma, Visit Florida expressed confidence that Canadian visitors will come back for the high season despite reports that parts of the Florida Keys, for example, were badly damaged by the storm.
About 40 percent of Florida’s Canadian visitors usually visit the state from January through March. “We’re optimistic about Canadian visitation moving forward, though we have refocused our efforts, improved our messaging to highlight Florida’s destination diversity and we’re confident our new campaign will put Florida back at the top of mind for Canadian consumers,” said Stephen Lawson, Visit Florida’s vice president of government relations.
Visit Florida said that it’s still committed to attracting 120 million visitors this year despite Irma’s impact. In September the tourism board launched a digital marketing campaign showing parts of the state in real-time, and conveying which parts are open and when storm-ravaged areas are expected to reopen to tourists.
The Canada campaign includes ads on billboards in Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto and on public transit throughout Canada, a partnership with Canada’s Weather Network, and partner programs at Toronto’s Union Station.
But as Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson said last week, Canadian travelers’ qualms with the U.S. go beyond the currency situation. Sorenson blamed U.S. President Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, in part, on why RevPAR is projected to be stronger in Canada than the U.S. for 2017.
Visit Florida only has 26 partners signed on to offer discounts to Canadian tourists as part of the campaign.
The tourism board may be able to convince Canadians that the state is safe, and that resorts and beaches are open post-Irma, but it will have a harder time promoting the state’s affordability.
Even with discounts, places like Mexico or the Caribbean are a better value than Florida in some cases, and about the same distance from many large Canadian cities.