Anticipating a Record 15 Million Visitors this Year, Greater Fort Lauderdale Sets Sights on 2016

If you thought the beaches and malls in Broward County seemed more crowded than usual with out-of-towners, you're probably right.

Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that Broward could surpass its goal of 15 million visitors by December, and outlined how the county would draw even more travelers next year during the tourism bureau's 2016 Marketing Plan Presentation on Thursday. The event was attended by about 550 South Florida tourism professionals at the Broward County Convention Center.

The GFLCVB will reach all over the globe to attract internationals who have never before considered traveling to Fort Lauderdale, as well as domestic travelers. The bureau will create campaigns to draw in thrifty millennials and more established "affluent" tourists making six-figures or more. It will reach out to the U.S. Hispanic market in new ways and host more multicultural events.

The tourism bureau is expanding its marketing horizons at a time when the sector is booming in Broward. The county has reported 70 consecutive months of growth in hotel occupancy, ahead of the national average, and every 85 heads-in-beds creates a job in South Florida.

"It didn't happen over night," said Grossman to the crowd. "We're responsible for 15 percent of all visitors to Florida and we don't have a single Magic Kingdom."

Highlights from the GFLCVB's marketing plan:

Conventions

Fort Lauderdale's tourism officials say they're seeing growth in the convention space, particularly within technology, medical and pop culture events like ArcadiaCon and WizardCon, which were hosted at the Broward County Convention Center.

Retailers and restaurants should plan to capitalize on SeaTrade Cruise Global coming to the county's convention center March 14-17. The event is moving from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and its attendees, who hail from all over the world, are expected to generate a large economic impact for local businesses.

Multicultural

Hispanics in the United States have become a big target market for the bureau. It says the demographic has a spending power of $1.5 trillion, and that number is growing. It's great for tourism because Hispanics tend to travel with more family members on average, and take longer vacations, the bureau said.

Broward County landed the National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale this year, which touted 8,000 attendees, including half a dozen presidential candidates. The bureau is in talks to be included in the organization's regular rotation of cities that host its annual meetings.

For the first time, Broward County will host the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officers in 2018.

Sports

Fort Lauderdale hosted major sporting events, and aims to grow its relationships with both local and international teams. The Association of Chief Executives in Sports will be held in Broward in 2016 and the destination is bidding for the college football championships in 2018 and the Superbowl in 2020.

LGBTQ

In 2015, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population reached a major milestone in equality with the legalization of same-sex marriage across Florida, and then all 50 states. In celebration, Fort Lauderdale held its "Love is Love" campaign, which wed 100 couples at the W Hotel. The Southern Comfort conference - a major transgender event - also moved from Atlanta for the first time in its 25-year history to the Bonaventure Hotel in Weston.

For 2016, the bureau will focus on attracting same-sex families and continue its campaigns to draw in more LGBTQ visitors.

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