SIESTA KEY, Fla. -- There will be some who decide they don't want to visit Tampa Bay in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
But Florida tourism officials have a plan to let potential visitors know the images of damage from the storm are not closing the coastline and hope to save the winter tourism season.
Siesta Beach is open and so is the Village. But the streets are quiet and so is the beach due to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
“Right now, we're a little bit nervous,” says Michael Holderness owner of Siesta Key Beach Side Villas. Holderness rents out 200 rooms. He says new and old guests are calling a lot.
“Do you have power? Do you have water? Are you ok? I said yeah. Mother Nature used a sweeping broom and created a big mess,” says Holderness.
While the mess has virtually cleared out, perceptions of Florida damage after Irma remain foggy.
“One of the biggest issues is people understanding geography and that the entire state is not wiped out,” says Virginia Haley, President of Visit Sarasota. Haley and tourism officials with Visit Florida have a marketing plan called #FloridaNow.
Hale says, “Immediately getting video and information conditions are great.”
What can you do to help get the word out? Tourism officials say next time you are at a popular place for visitors such as Siesta Key Village, to use your phone to take a picture or video to post it on your Facebook page and tag Visit Florida. In this case, you would tag Visit Sarasota and let everyone know they're open for business.
In the meantime, the state will do research.
“Heavy duty research tracking consumer research: What are your perceptions? Tracking social media chatter,” explains Haley.
Then craft ads based on that research to run through the end of October, something businesses are doing too.
Holderness says, “We’re sending out pictures and email blasts.”
And to make up for business lost during the first two weeks of September, they've got some deals for you too.
Holderness says, “Now is an extremely good time to book and save some money. Once everyone understands we’re not devastated like others are, they’ll come here.”
Hotel owners say in-state visitors will likely spend their vacation closer to home. Many used vacation money before and after the hurricane. Also, the damage in Southwest Florida such as Fort Myers and Naples plus the Keys may help bay area businesses.
Some visitors may now choose our beaches instead.
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