Tourism is the main economic driver in Greater Fort Lauderdale. More than 13 million people visit every year and spend over $8 billion during their visits. Those dollars ripple throughout the community, supporting as many as 180,000 local jobs.
Visit Lauderdale, a.k.a. the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB), develops and manages the marketing and promotion of our area as a visitor and meetings destination. We were off to a great start for 2020 with our hotels reporting close to 90% occupancy in February, and then the spread of the COVID-19 became a global pandemic. The impact on the travel industry and the U.S. economy is already enormous, but we know that our tourism industry, and our community, is resilient.
This challenge will not define us. Until it is safe to invite visitors to return, we all need to support each other and remember that even during times of social distancing, our award-winning Greater Together message of welcome applies right here in our community. For the time being the GFLCVB is focusing on several initiatives that allow us to celebrate and support local businesses and at the same time recognize the people who are emerging as true local heroes.
Every one of you probably knows at least one person who has done something selfless or amazing during the crisis. Maybe it’s an employer that is against all odds keeping employees on the payroll, or someone who has lost their job, but is volunteering to raise money to deliver food to those who are out of work, or someone helping to support our medical workers. We invite you to submit their stories of courage and kindness at www.Sunny.org/Lauderdale-Heroes so we can share this news.
We are working behind the scenes to connect first responders and other travelers categorized as essential lodgers with hotels that remain open throughout the pandemic. On our website and @VisitLauderdale social media, you’ll find our “Eat Local” campaign with lists of restaurants offering takeout, drive-thru, curbside, and delivery services. To stay engaged with future visitors, we’re also promoting the many virtual experiences offered by our area attractions and museums.
Our travel sales team has turned this challenging time period into a great online learning experience for kids that teaches them math, science, history, geography, and more using locations and situations throughout Greater Fort Lauderdale. Once they complete all the subjects, they become certified Visit Lauderdale Junior Ambassadors and are encouraged to invite their friends and family members to visit while they play tour guide. I invite you to join your kids for this engaging program found at www.Sunny.org/Junior-Ambassador.
When local, state, and national travel industry partners agree it is safe, we’ll be so excited to extend our welcoming message of diversity to visitors. Until then, stay safe, be well, and remember, we truly are Greater Together.
President / CEO, GFLCVB