Florida has quadrupled its marketing budget for the UK and European market, where it will spend $2m this financial year.
Visit Florida president and CEO Chris Thompson said the additional funding, announced on July 1, would allow the state to pay for joint initiatives with new and existing airline and tour operator partners in the UK.
The money will be shared with France and Germany, but the UK is Florida's largest European market.
Visit Florida will deploy the resources through its new worldwide marketing and advertising agency, SapientNitro, which officially began working with the tourist board on July 1.
Speaking during a visit to the UK by Florida's Governor Rick Scott, Thompson said the UK market to Florida had been flat for the past four years and at 1.3m visitors last year it was well below the numbers reached in 1990.
Bookings are expected to be flat again this year, despite a positive start to 2012, but Visit Florida UK director Colin Brodie said forward bookings for 2013 were "buoyant". "Easter 2013 is ahead of this year, I think because there is a lot of pent up demand," he said. "We are not going to see a huge boom, but people are booking."
Florida accounts for 7.3% of the UK long-haul market and Thompson said it was keen to maintain its share. "That alone is a big challenge," he added.
Visit Florida will launch a new advertising campaign in the UK later this year, which will also make use of social media to try to attract young travellers. "The challenge is to speak to young people with the right message while maintaining our core market," said Thompson. "We need to reach young travellers, who have the whole world at their fingertips, with the right message at the right time."
Airlines significantly reduced capacity to Florida four years ago, although British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have more recently added extra flights. Visit Florida would love a flight from Heathrow to Orlando, said Brodie, but it is also trying to encourage services from regional airports.
The state has $250,000 of grants to encourage airlines to launch flights from new destinations, said Visit Florida vice president of sales and marketing Eileen Forrow. "We would like new flights from Manchester or Glasgow or anywhere in the UK," she said.
Governor Scott met with Prime Minister David Cameron at the Farnborough air show, during which Thompson said he was sure the issue of the UK's rising air passenger duty would have come up.
"The tax has had a huge impact on long-haul travel, but the US is faring better than the Caribbean," said Brodie. "However, it's still a charge and it puts people off."
By Linsey McNeill
Thursday, July 12, 2012