The global credit crunch will mean 2009 is likely to be a late booking market for Florida, predicted Visit Florida director for UK, Ireland and Scandinavia Colin Brodie.
The destination has had a strong 2008, with visitor numbers for the first three quarters of the year up by 4% on 2007, boosted in part by the favourable exchange rate earlier in the year. However, Brodie said visitor numbers had tailed off with recent flattening of currency values.
“The jury is still out on how the 2009 market is going to be. We expect it to be a late booking market because of the economic situation.”
He said the failure of Travel City Direct, part of collapsed XL Leisure Group and a Florida specialist, had taken some flight capacity out of the market.
Brodie said: “[Travel City Direct] had about 150,000 seats and its 2009 programme was almost 40% sold. There has been a rush to protect these bookings.”
“We are talking to all the major airlines to supply some of that capacity.
“There is not going to be an over-availability of seats, but there is going to be sensible pricing,” he added.
He said Virgin Holidays has bought the Travelcity Direct database, and is targeting frequent flyers to Florida.
Brodie said the second and third holiday of the year for families is in jeopardy due to the current economic situation. However, he was upbeat about the situation for Florida as it is a popular destination for first holidays.
He said Barack Obama’s win in the US presidential election could only be good for the destination and the positive press coverage has provided a feel-good factor for the US market.
Visit Florida executive vice-president sales and marketing Eileen Forrow said a large amount of upscale properties are set to open in the state. The tourist board is launching a joint campaign with American Express called ‘Affordable Luxury’, offering a range of top-end and boutique hotels.
While the UK family market is still the most important for the destination, new flights from Latin America, in particular Brazil, are opening up a new market.
* More WTM 2008 coverage at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2008
- Travel Weekly will be filming at Visit Florida’s WTM party on Monday November 10. Look out for footage on the website…