Florida Shines On

Florida takes the prize for Best Selling Destination in the USA/Canada, celebrating for the second consecutive year a result of what Chris Thompson, CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, calls the state’s “natural beauty, world-class attractions, fabulous beaches, a wonderful climate and great value.”

“VISIT FLORIDA is honored and thrilled that Recommend readers have again named the ‘Sunshine State’ the Best Selling Destination in the USA/Canada,” says Thompson. “In the wake of this summer’s oil spill, we’re eager to let the world know our beaches are as clean, clear and amazing as ever and our seafood is plentiful and ready to be caught and enjoyed. With this recognition comes a wonderful opportunity to spread the message that there’s never been a better time to visit Florida.”

Indeed, Florida welcomed many new additions in 2010, including the opening of the highly anticipated “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attraction at Orlando’s Universal Studios Resort; and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, the nation’s newest international airport located in the Florida Panhandle.

There were also several hotel openings—as well as hotel re-openings—throughout the state. The JW Marriott Marquis Miami, for instance, is a 313-room and 56-suite property with a 10,000-sq.-ft. NBA-approved basketball area, the Jim McLean Golf School, the Rik Rak Spa & Salon, and Miami’s first DB Bistro Moderne. In Orlando, meanwhile, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress recently completed a $45 million renovation, featuring 45 holes on a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, a racquet ball club, a 21-acre lake with watersports and the Camp Hyatt’s children’s program. There was also Hotel Duval, a newly renovated boutique hotel in Tallhassee boasting 117 upscale accommodations—the property is only the 11th hotel worldwide invited to join the exclusiveMarriott Autograph Collection—and the newly rebranded Omni Amelia Island Plantation (formerly the Amelia Island Plantation), located on 1,350 acres at the northern tip of Florida and featuring 125 additional guestrooms and suites.

In 2011, Florida-bound travelers can check out Jacksonville’s newest property—aloft Jacksonville-Tapestry Park. Opening in January, the hotel—which is anticipated to be designed to meet the extensive requirements outlined by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED building rating system—will feature 137 guestrooms, as well as the II Forks Steakhouse with more than 9,000 sq. ft. of dining space and a 6,000-bottle wine cellar.

Other attractions making their Florida debut in 2011 include the January grand re-opening of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, which will now double in size to 66,450 sq. ft. and showcase works of art from a 2,140-piece collection by legendary artist Salvador Dali; and the opening of C’Mon, the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, a 30,000-sq.-ft. space featuring 10 child-scaled exhibits that encourage sensory and intellectual exploration.

“With 94 percent of Florida’s 80 million annual visitors having traveled to the ‘Sunshine State’ at least once before, it’s safe to say people know and love the Florida brand,” Thompson tells Recommend.
“We’re very happy that travel agents recognize the superlative quality of Florida destinations and the incredible experiences their clients will have here.”