FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) - Fort Lauderdale - home of the iconic
1960s Spring Break film "Where the Boys Are" - boasts 23 miles of sugar
sand beaches where bathing suit-clad tourists sip daiquiris under lazy
palm trees. And then there's Broward County, known for hanging chads,
election debacles and a namesake who championed draining the Everglades.
which one has the name recognition to bring in the most tourism
dollars? County and city stakeholders met Thursday to discuss possibly
changing the name of Broward County, the second largest in the state
with 1.8 million residents, to Fort Lauderdale County.
comes to recognition, Fort Lauderdale has the juice literally and
figuratively," said Jordan Zimmerman, chairman of Fort Lauderdale-based
Zimmerman Advertising. "Fort Lauderdale is seen as a major port, a major
destination, a world class recreation area, ideal climate, an ideal
life, a great place to do business."
Tourism experts say a handful
of counties around the country are also pondering name changes in an
effort to market the most recognizable name in a region. About 15 years
ago, Florida's largest county changed its name from Dade to Miami-Dade
to capitalize on the name of its most famous city.
counter the name change is a waste of money that will cost big bucks to
change street signs, libraries, courthouses, ports and vehicles. The
city of Fort Lauderdale is part of Broward County, which drew more than
12 million tourists last year.
And what about the dozens of other
lesser-known cities that make up Broward that are also vying for tourism
dollars, asked Hollywood City Commissioner Hon. Patty Asseff. Hollywood
also has great beaches and has drawn stars - former Playboy model Anna
Nicole Smith died there. (But the legal battle turned media circus over
her estate was in Fort Lauderdale).
Broward County has been
problematic for tourism officials from the start. Officials once
considered marketing an animated character named "Howard from Broward"
to sell the sunny beaches, but he was eventually nixed. Rumor has it
that a former tourism chief once paraded around Vatican Square in an
alligator suit to entice international tourists.
major tourism agency is named the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and
Visitors Bureau. The agency plays up the perennially warm climate, with
a live beach cam on their website (sunny.org) and a recent media blitz
in New York City in which bikini-clad dancers took to an ice skating
Palm Beach and Dade counties gave up land in 1915 to form
Broward County. It was slated to be called Everglades County but that
changed after a popular early-20th century governor, Napoleon Bonaparte
Broward, died suddenly while running for the U.S. Senate. Broward
championed draining the Everglades, which opened up much of today's
urban Broward County for development. His great grandson is Chief
Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
"What we've seen in the U.S. and
globally is this move toward picking the most recognizable destination
within a region and picking that to market to people," said Lori
Pennington-Gray, director of the Tourism Crisis Management Institute at
the University of Florida.
"Tourists, especially internationally, they're not familiar with geography and county names don't resonate," she said.
say tourists may well visit all three counties that comprise South
Florida, staying in a trendy Art Deco hotel on Miami's South Beach or
catching a polo match with the well-heeled in Palm Beach. They argue
tourism officials should market the region as a whole.
actually going to talk about the name of the county, why don't we talk
about how we work regionally as well," said Gregory Stuart, executive
director of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Bennett, a lifelong Fort Lauderdale resident and owner of the hip,
waterfront Blue Moon Fish Co. restaurant, thinks a name change would
boost local businesses.
"People are coming to Fort Lauderdale. They're not booking a flight to Broward," said Bennett. "There's no Broward Beach."