Although it emerged as a holiday destination, today the destination offers an experience full of activities to enjoy all year
Fort Lauderdale is one of the destinations in Florida that has expanded the most in recent years, much of which has to do with the work of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Fort Lauderdale. To better understand the city’s current situation, we have interviewed its president and CEO Stacy Ritter. We share your answers below.
1. As a destination neighboring Miami, GFL has grown and made a name for itself, how was that process?
Greater Fort Lauderdale is an incredibly dynamic destination that is experiencing ambitious, yet authentic growth. Gone are the days when we were known as just a spring break place. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau has raised awareness that there is more to explore here beyond the beaches. Exploration in Greater Fort Lauderdale includes perusing outdoor mural districts and world-class art museums, dining at one of the 4,000 eateries, taking a thrilling airboat ride in the Everglades, enjoying the views from our rooftop bars, and of course, experiencing our beautiful beaches and waterways.
We also created a new destination brand initiative to serve as a warm welcome and visitor invitation to the international travel community: Greater Together. Our destination is welcoming to all visitors, and we take great pride in showing our visitors how diverse and inclusive Greater Fort Lauderdale is.
We’ve seen interest from our visitors in our arts and culture scene, and the destination continues to fuel this excitement with new events such as the Fort Lauderdale Art & Design Week and expanded offerings including our Ale Trail map, providing an easy way for visitors to explore 50 craft breweries and gastro pubs.
We are also undergoing a rebranding and are very excited to launch new campaigns that will share with the world why Greater Fort Lauderdale is the place to add to your bucket list or to rediscover.
2. What type of tourism infrastructure is available in GFL?
With more than 700 flights a day, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) offers nonstop service to more than 75 US cities and global connectivity to more than 60 international destinations in 33 countries. This airport is very appealing because it can be significantly cheaper than flying in from other area airports. And once on land, you are within 5 minutes from downtown, the port (Port Everglades), and the beach.
With annual passenger counts of nearly 4 million, Port Everglades is the third largest cruise port in the world. Nearly 40 cruise ships including Celebrity Edge, ms Nieuw Statendam, and Allure of the Seas depart from nine ultra-modern terminals.
Greater Fort Lauderdale offers various meeting and event spaces – ranging from arenas to traditional meetings spaces, and from yachts to unique venues such as galleries and botanical gardens. Greater Fort Lauderdale has begun the expansion of the convention center and is adding an 800-room headquarters hotel. When completed in 2023, the expanded Convention Center will boast more than 1,200,000 square feet, including 350,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space, a new 65,000-square-foot waterfront ballroom, the latest in new technology, new dining concepts, enhanced water taxi access, and an iconic waterfront plaza with public access.
Staying in Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County puts you in the center of South Florida, and that is one of the many reasons leisure and business travelers find that our destination makes the perfect place to book their stay.
We have 566 hotels and continue to add more. On October 24, 2019, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, will celebrate its grand opening for its $1.5 billion expansion, which includes the world’s first guitar-shaped hotel. Within the next five years, 39 additional hotels will open (including a Four Seasons).
For visitors who wish to travel to the tri-county area (Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties), the high-speed local train, Brightline (acquired by Virgin and will be renamed soon to Virgin Trains USA), has a station in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, which connects you to either Miami or West Palm Beach, each within 30 minutes. In 2 years, the same train will take visitors to Orlando.
3. Connectivity has improved remarkably, any news in that respect?
We are constantly adding airlines and new routes to the destination. We have great services from Latin America including Azul, Avianca, Copa, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit. Our airport has also become a great hub for airlines flying domestically and covering the Caribbean.
Because our arrivals continue to grow (domestic and international), the airport has made improvements to the terminals both for passengers arriving and departing. A recent milestone was the opening of the new Concourse G in our international terminal with its modern guest amenities and enhanced shopping and dining venues. And more improvements are coming this year including new U.S. Customs and Border Protection functionality (which will make international arrivals quicker and easier), advanced baggage handling system equipment, a new “meet-and-greet” area and additional passenger queuing space.
4. Main inbound markets
Our top origin U.S. states for domestic airline passengers (in no particular order) are California, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington, D.C. Our top origin countries for international airlines passengers (in no particular order) are Bahamas, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico. However, many international travelers from Latin America get to us by car, having flown into the U.S. through other airports. We are less than an hour away from Miami International Airport (MIA) and only a few hours’ drive from Orlando International Airport (MCO).
5. Medium- and long-term objectives
For the Latin American region, we want to invite travelers and those who sell travel to discover or rediscover Greater Fort Lauderdale. We will be doing that through traditional channels, like trade shows, missions and activities with wholesalers. We will also be showing a different side to our marketing initiatives. We want to reaffirm the experiences that have made us famous, like our beautiful beaches and amazing shopping alternatives, while also reveal a perhaps lesser-known side of Greater Fort Lauderdale, like our street murals or our gastronomy or our conservation partners out in the Everglades.
Some travelers can make a quick trip to Greater Fort Lauderdale and spend a long weekend with us. Others come to Florida for a longer stay, and we will be part of that vacation. Either way, we know that a stop in our destination, during a trip to Florida, will make the vacation much richer and interesting, unexpected and very Instagrammable. That’s what we want to communicate!