Gov. Rick Scott announced the launch of two VISIT FLORIDA Hurricane Michael assistance programs on Friday, both aiming to aid local tourism businesses in the counties included in the FEMA major disaster declaration on Oct. 11.
The Tourism Recovery Grant Program for Hurricane Michael and the Hurricane Michael Recovery Marketing Program are available to Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington counties, and are designed to assist the areas to market their destinations as soon as hurricane-damaged areas are open to visitors.
Said Scott, “As Florida continues to recover from Hurricane Michael, we are working non-stop and using every available resource to help the Panhandle rebuild. I’m proud of the work VISIT FLORIDA has done to support Panhandle families and businesses. These programs will provide critical relief and support, and help encourage more visitors to come to enjoy the Sunshine State.”
The announcement of these Hurricane Michael assistance programs follows a nearly $9 million marketing plan developed and launched by VISIT FLORIDA in late October. The extensive, multi-phased campaign includes more than $5 million dollars to support the Panhandle following the storm and marketing efforts such as digital, social, broadcast and traditional components in both domestic and international markets.
Ken Lawson, president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, said, "Tourism is Florida's number one economic driver and VISIT FLORIDA is committed to safeguarding our industry. These programs will provide support to the affected counties and enable our destinations to show visitors that Florida is ready to welcome them back. I want to thank Governor Scott for his leadership as we work to mitigate the impacts of Hurricane Michael on the tourism industry and continue to let the world know that Florida is still the number one global destination."
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “The Panhandle has made great progress since Hurricane Michael swept through the area, and many businesses have recovered and reopened. Tourism is an economic engine for the area, and businesses and residents depend on the revenue and jobs it generates. This program will help amplify the message that Northwest Florida is open for business, and we are building a better, stronger Florida.”
Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, agreed. “Not only does VISIT FLORIDA play a key role in promoting the Sunshine State to visitors around the world," he said, "they also lead the charge in safeguarding our tourism industry following natural disasters. VISIT FLORIDA’s Hurricane Michael assistance programs will help protect businesses and their employees in the impacted areas.”
Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said, “As our state’s Panhandle and Big Bend continue to recover from Hurricane Michael, it is important we keep this region top of mind -- both in Florida and nationally. VISIT FLORIDA’s post-storm actions have been instrumental as families and businesses rebuild.”
Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, said, “Tourism makes tremendous contributions, not only to District 8, but to the entire state. In the wake of Hurricane Michael, VISIT FLORIDA’s help has enabled Gadsden and Leon County residents to focus their efforts on bringing visitors back to our destination’s businesses.”
Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, said, “In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Leon County has been working hard to tell visitors we are open. VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing efforts and assistance programs will amplify this message, ensuring economic growth and stability for the entire region.”
Rep. Brad Drake, R-DeFuniak Springs, said, “Hurricane Michael has been a setback for many businesses in the Central Panhandle. Thanks to the state and VISIT FLORIDA’s quick response, the impact of the storm continues to be mitigated. VISIT FLORIDA is vital to our state, particularly following crises like Hurricane Michael.”
Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, said, “As we continue to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael I am proud of our families and businesses who have tirelessly worked to get back on their feet; I am thankful for groups like VISIT FLORIDA that work with our communities to bolster the tourism sector of our economy.”
The Tourism Recovery Grant Program for Hurricane Michael provides financial assistance for tourist development boards and marketing programs through advertising, direct mail, brochure production, website development and other related projects/programs. The program is available immediately, at no cost, to all small, medium and large tourism businesses located in counties affected by Hurricane Michael.
The program provides complimentary VISIT FLORIDA marketing partnerships through June 30, 2019, and includes marketing opportunities such as, enhanced web listing on VISITFLORIDA.com, the promotion of Partner-to-Partner specials, and the ability to submit content for exposure on VISIT FLORIDA's social media channels, media blog and consumer website.