Visit Florida Pledges to Boost PR Following Red Tide Scare

Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson visited Fort Myers Beach on Monday to speak with business leaders.

BY October 1, 2018


The stench at Fort Myers Beach, nauseating at times over the summer, has lifted. The dead fish? None in sight.

Still omnipresent? The red tide bacteria lingering in Gulf waters and—more critically, if you ask business owners—the bad publicity that scared off tourists at the height of summer vacation season.

Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson paid a quick visit to Fort Myers Beach this afternoon, pledging that the state’s marketing division was preparing for a PR blitz in the hopes of persuading would-be visitors to return, even if the bacteria had not fully subsided. State Rep. Bob Rommel, who owns Bayfront Bistro, hosted the meeting, which drew about 20 business owners, chamber of commerce officials, local visitor’s bureau representatives and legislative aides.

“We need to let people know—there are no dead fish on the beach today,” said Rommel, encouraging business owners to leverage Visit Florida’s reach and send the state agency up-to-date content to post (Business owners, notably, also urged the organization to ensure prospective visitors receive reliable data on water conditions, beach-by-beach and day-by-day).

How bad has the hit been so far?

About $2.6 million a week in revenue lost (that’s excluding several big resorts like Diamondhead), Fort Myers Beach Chamber President Jacki Liszak says. And about $1 million a week in lost revenue for employees (excluding tips).

Rommel’s upscale restaurant took a $100,000 hit. Judith Lee-Helmstreet at Sun Palace Vacations has issued $65,000 in refunds. Beverly Milligan at Myserside Resort reported a 317 percent decrease in revenues.

Business owners are surprisingly optimistic about this winter’s prospects (these are the same people, after all, who blitzed Irma repairs and got the beach up and running in time to host a full season’s worth of guests). There’s little that coastal communities can do once red tide takes over the water, but business owners are gearing up for a social media war to try to win back seasonal guests—the lifeblood of Southwest Florida’s economy. 



Related Images: