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Florida launches campaign to boost tourism

/ Source: The Associated Press

Florida's top industry is hoping to blunt the effect of a softening economy with its first national ad campaign aimed at persuading travelers to come to the state.

The tourism ad campaign, focusing TV and Web viewers in cold Northern cities, began Monday. Besides a 30-second TV spot, the campaign includes print advertising and a heavy emphasis on a Web-based promotion.

The campaign is run by Visit Florida, the state-created corporation that promotes tourism. The corporation is funded by the surcharge paid on rental cars in Florida.

The TV spots will air on major networks and the emphasis is on New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston and Washington. The ads campaign are also viewable online at Visit Florida's Web site.

The ad hits familiar Florida themes: pink flamingos, deep-sea fishing, a roller coaster, golf and families enjoying the sand and surf. There are three different versions of the ad.

State economists are worried about tourism dropping off as the national economy slumps. Florida relies heavily on tourists to fuel its businesses, and to fill its tax coffers. With no state income tax, government here badly needs the sales tax dollars tourists bring.

Economists have said they're worried that along with general anxiety about the economy, high gas prices are also likely to put a damper on visits. A declining dollar may bring in more foreign visitors, but likely not enough to offset a potential drop in domestic tourism.

Florida saw two straight quarters of tourism growth last year, including a strong showing in the July-to-September period, when more than 21 million visitors came, nearly 5 percent higher than the same period of 2006. Figures for the last three months of last year, or the first couple months of 2008, haven't been released yet, however.