Of the 1.5 million Britons visiting Florida each year, almost a million fly into central Florida, usually Orlando, according to Visit Florida UK director Colin Brodie.
But Brodie is keen to stress the range of holidays and destinations the state offers. “Florida has more than 1,000 miles of beaches and people who have experienced Orlando are starting to look further afield.”
Virgin Holidays supports Visit Florida’s strategy of promoting activities and areas beyond Orlando. “Although the theme parks remain an integral part of the family holiday, we intend to expand the twin-centre and touring markets across the state,” said head of North America product Angus Bond.
“The diversity of what you can see and do in Florida is an important selling point of the destination and we’re discussing projects with convention and visitors bureaux as well as Visit Florida to support this initiative.”
Among the destinations Virgin has promoted is Fort Lauderdale, in south Florida. For Jetlife, Florida remains a family market, but the operator is seeing an increase in the number of couples, both young and old, who are interested in activities beyond the theme parks.
“Probably about 70% of our clients will stay in Orlando, with the remainder combining a week there with a week on one of the Florida beaches,” said senior product manager Zia Bapuji.
“Of the beach resorts, the Gulf Coast is still the most popular, especially the quieter resorts of Naples and Sarasota, while Miami is emerging as a single-centre long-weekend destination for those who fancy the nightlife of South Beach,” she added.
While the focus for families remains on Orlando, Euromonitor tourism research manager Caroline Bremner said Florida is also the departure point for Caribbean cruises. “Sun and beach holidays, together with flydrives combined with shopping, appeal to couples and older visitors, and there’s interest in the Everglades for nature tourism,” she said.
“Florida is feeling the competition from long-haul rivals such as Cancun on Mexico’s Gulf Coast.”
In terms of overall performance, Florida is beginning to stabilise after a couple of soft years, with early sales for 2008 reported to be strong. As the long-haul sector grows more competitive, however, signs are that operators must continue to diversify their product and highlight new destinations if they’re to develop an already mature market.
Win a twin-centre trip to the US
Agents still have time to enter for a booking incentive with Continental Airlines.
To celebrate the launch of Continental Airlines Vacations, the carrier’s holiday brand, agents are being offered the chance to win a place on a twin-centre fam trip to New York and Memphis.
Bookings have to be made by April 20 for travel this year. For bookings made at Covacations4agents.co.uk, the chances to win will be doubled.
Eight winners will depart from Gatwick or Manchester on May 21 with Continental Airlines, staying two nights in New York and three nights in Memphis, returning on May 27. For your chance to win a place, call reservations on 0870 942 5050 or book online.