Addressing ‘more’ than Florida’s tourism ‘core’

Small rural areas in Florida, like Franklin and Gulf counties, don’t always get the attention they deserve when it comes to fortifying the rich cultural and ecological attractions they offer.

A Visit Florida continuing education program last week at the Fort Coombs Armory in Apalachicola, hosted by the Franklin County Tourist Development Council,  drew about three dozen representatives of the area’s tourism industry to see about changing that.

The two-day Adventure Travel Training module focused on improving the marketing skills of tourism operators in this area, particularly when it comes to the historical offerings and ecological opportunities that make the area so distinctive.

Katie Chunka, Visit Florida vice president, talks about marketing smaller, rural attractions

“When Visit Florida thinks about the product we promote in the state, we think about it as the ‘core and more’ construct,” said Kate Chunka, Visit Florida vice-president, industry engagement, who was on hand with fellow staffers Brenna Dacks, regional partnership manager for northeast Florida, and Amber O’Connell, senior manager, industry relations.

“When we think of ‘core,’ we know visitors know Florida for its theme park and beaches,” said Chunka. “However, the ‘more’ is really where we want to create more opportunities for visitors and really expose them to Florida’s diverse experiences. 

“We have beautiful trails, beautiful hiking paths, beautiful springs, culinary activities, cultural activities and events,” she said. “This event with the Adventure Travel Travel Association helps promote Florida’s lesser known destinations that offer amazing outdoor and adventure opportunities for consumers.

“The purpose of today’s event is to really work with these lesser-known destinations and help them think about the product that they offer and how to develop new products and pitch their product to people like travel and tour operators,” said Chunka. “We know over the last few years the outdoor and adventure visitor has been flocking to Florida, and today we’re hoping with the various destination marketing organizations and small businesses that are here, that they can learn how to better brand their business.”

In terms of culinary experiences, John Solomon, director of the Franklin County TDC, underscored that point by personally catering a barbecue lunch.

Russell Walters, regional director for North America of the worldwide Adventure Travel Trade Association, and his staff offered the content of the event, which included discussion on such topics and building profitable relationships with international trade partners, sustainability practices, and tools and tactics for marketing.

“Visitors don’t see county lines,” Chunka said. “You are all going to benefit.”

Such modules in smaller venues have also been hosted in Sebring and Steinhatchee and this spring will be in Okeechobee.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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