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VISIT FLORIDA Trade Show Program Helps Promote “Unexplored Florida”

avatarBy on November 15th, 2016 — 12:17pm

In an effort to showcase Florida’s diverse destinations by bringing attention to the state’s less visited rural areas, VISIT FLORIDA began a travel trade show partnership in 2014 with the Original Florida Tourism Task Force, doing business as Visit Natural North Florida.  As a result, the task force, which represents 14 counties in North Central Florida, was able to show a 16 percent increase in tax revenues for the region between July 2015 and February 2016.

Due to the success of this program, VISIT FLORIDA is partnering with another regional tourism organization, the RiverWay South Apalachicola Choctawhatchee Organization, to help them promote Northwest Florida Rural Areas of Opportunity and work collaboratively with Visit Natural North Florida.

unexplored-florida-brochureThese two groups will begin attending both national and international consumer trade shows in key feeder markets in January 2017 as a united force under the brand Unexplored Florida.  To support this venture, VISIT FLORIDA has produced pop-up banners and brochures that will be displayed and distributed at the upcoming shows.  The brochure highlights what makes Unexplored Florida such a great place to visit, including a map of the region and tips on exploring springs, rivers, trails, historic sites and other outdoor attractions in the area.

VISIT FLORIDA’s travel trade program includes 13 well-known consumer trade shows in key travel markets, nine of which are domestic (such as the New York Times Travel Show and Canoecopia) and four are international (including the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show and the Berlin International Trade Show).  By joining together, Visit Natural North Florida and RiverWay South will represent 22 counties promoting some of the most beautiful and unspoiled places in Northwest and North Central Florida.

Kate Chunka
Senior Manager, Industry Relations

Editorial: A River (of Money) Runs Through It


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By:   Homer Hirt

Immediate Past President, RiverWay South, Apalachicola-Choctawhatchee

One of the legends of West Florida relates that Mr. Ed Ball, who ruled the vast holdings of St. Joe Company, was approached by some California businessmen.  They had a need for  land and St. Joe controlled a million acres in West Florida.  After listening  as they related their plan for a tourist destination center, he, in measured tones, said:  “I don’t hold much with carnival rides”.

So Walt Disney’s folks went to Orlando and soon Disneyworld came, with its thrill rides and comic book characters and castles and palaces.

And West Florida was left with rivers and streams and first magnitude springs, complete with flora and fauna, and great forests and beaches, and history that precedes the Spanish invasion.

Judy Randall, President of Randall Travel Services, the premier tourism company of the southeastern United States, at the March 2010 Jackson County Chamber of Commerce’s Power Breakfast  called Interstate 10  “A river of money”.

She told of the millions of vehicles that moved annually on the east-west route and described the passengers:  sales representatives, families, truck drivers, some going on by, some staying at roadside hotels. And she told the attendees what the visitors were looking for.

They are eager to have a home style meal in a nice restaurant, IF they knew where to find one.

Some would like to visit parks and attractions that were not as “hokey” as the theme parks, IF they could only knew about them.

Many would like mementos, handcrafted   by locals, that would be conversation pieces back home in Indiana or Kansas or Texas or California IF they were able  to find them.

Ms. Randall’s message inspired a group from the six riparian counties of the Apalachicola, later joined by Washington and Holmes counties, to seek a way to tell the story of what is here.  The organization, RiverWay South Apalachicola/Choctawhatchee (RWSAC) with funds from member counties through bed taxes, matched by a grant from the Governor’s office, was able to employ a professional tourism manager who provided wayfaring directions, tourism gap analyses, inventories, a website, advertising  and many other assists.

This year RWSAC will continue. As Florida promotes its five hundredth anniversary of  Spanish exploration, RWSAC will take part.  A summit will give access to the best and brightest speakers  in rural tourism.  A closer tie to Visit Florida  will put the area in the forefront of national and international publicity efforts. There will be a special emphasis on agricultural tourism.

We who have grown up in this part of Florida know what we have: family oriented beaches, magnificent rivers, national and state forests and parks, first magnitude springs, hiking and canoeing trails, history and cultural events and natural resources. Now is the time to let those folks that travel the “River of Money” know about it.


Explore OUR Florida!

My husband and I have been traveling the RiverWay region for two years, documenting its beauty, bounty, culture, and secret places. We’ve traded busy highways for winding country roads where cotton and peanut are king and Shade Tobacco history is traced through abandoned barns. I’ve visited land adorned by log cabins, pecan groves, and cattle. Land where grist mills stand by creeks and cane grinders are used to make syrup. Agriculture is celebrated here. (more…)