Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency due to the red tide algae bloom that has been infiltrating the beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Hardest-hit counties include Lee County, Sarasota, Charlotte, Collier and Manatee.
Red tide events are a naturally occurring phenomenon throughout the world, but extended algae blooms can cause immense imbalance in marine ecosystems and wreak havoc on human health and environments, too. In Florida, this year’s red tide has killed countless fish, sea turtles and manatee, and, according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, “…has caused breathing problems for people at beaches from Sarasota to Naples” and impacted business owners in the hardest-hit counties, which have lost nearly $90 million and laid-off around 300 workers.
In response, Visit Florida has launched two programs to assist local businesses and tourism development boards.
Florida Answers the Call
The Red Tide Recovery Marketing Program is available to businesses of all sizes in the tourism industry in the counties affected by red tide, and the other, a $500,000 Tourism Recovery Grant Program for Red Tide will provide financial assistance to tourism development boards to execute marketing programs through advertising as well as other related projects and programs.
“Fortunately, most of our meetings hotels have continued to hold their meetings.”
“Florida’s economy is fueled by travel and tourism and it’s Visit Florida’s job to protect our industry. These programs will allow our destinations to show that Florida is ready to welcome groups back to its world-renowned beaches in Southwest Florida,” said president and CEO Ken Lawson. “We are working with our partners in the area and state agencies to mitigate its effects, and will be communicating with visitors just as soon as the beaches are clean and back to normal.”
Tourism boards are welcoming the help and are getting the word out to meeting professionals that they are, in fact, open for business.
“We are working with Visit Florida and other entities to help our tourism industry during and after this red tide episode,” said Virginia Haley, president at Visit Sarasota County. “Fortunately, most of our meetings hotels have continued to hold their meetings. With that said, we continue to provide meeting planners red tide information, and direct visitors to VisitBeaches.org to get the most up-to-date information so that they can make informed decisions for their clients. We are also able to provide groups with full itineraries and activities that are away from the beaches and bay, if needed, as well as provide incentives for future meetings,” she added.
Jack Wert, FCDME and executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau said of the area of Naples and Marco Island, “We have been blessed to not have the same issues that our neighbors further north on the Gulf Coast have been experiencing. We have not discontinued our advertising, but we have redirected our message to highlight inland activities on those days that we do have an algae situation.”
For Hollywood, FL-based Hello! Florida Destination Management it is business as usual on Florida’s west coast.
“We do a fair amount of programs in Naples where the red tide was affected and we haven’t had any cancellations. I was there a few weeks ago and it had substantially dissipated. I think the worst is over,” said general manager Darlene Plisko.