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TMCNet:  Florida's 500th focus of travel promotion [Orlando Sentinel]

[January 20, 2013]

Florida's 500th focus of travel promotion [Orlando Sentinel]

(Orlando Sentinel (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 20--Florida marketers last week officially launched "Viva Florida," a year-long campaign to mark the 500th anniversary of explorer Juan Ponce d Leon's landing on Florida's East Coast.

The campaign, organized by Visit Florida, the state's publicly subsidized marketing agency, will include more than 200 events or activities across the state this year, including something in each of Florida's 67 counties. The aim, Visit Florida says, is to stimulate "cultural-heritage tourism." Visit Florida plans to buy advertising, conduct social-media campaigns and plant stories in travel media, among other marketing efforts. Several other state agencies are also pitching in, from the Department of Transportation, which will put the Viva 500 logo on highway signs, to the Florida Lottery, which has designed a new scratch-off game promoting the campaign.

"The Viva Florida 500 commemoration provides the Florida tourism industry with a historic opportunity to expand travelers' perceptions of the state," Susannah Costello, Visit Florida's vice president of brand, said in a prepared statement.

Disney soccer tourney set Walt Disney World has finalized the field of its annual Disney Pro Soccer Classic preseason tournament, which organizers hope will prove a magnet for traveling soccer fans in February.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, of the second-tier North American Soccer League, will join six Major League Soccer clubs and Orlando City Soccer Club in the tournament, which runs from Feb. 9-23.

Each of the six MLS teams will be paid between $30,000 and $105,000 for training in the region and appearing in the tournament, thanks to an earmark Disney won last year from the Florida Legislature.

Osceola launches tourism board Osceola County convened its first meeting of the West 192 Development Authority last week, with plans to revitalize the U.S. Highway 192 tourism corridor.

The advisory board -- seven representatives appointed by the County Commission -- is chaired by developer Mark Miller, owner of Arabian Nights dinner theater.

U.S. Travel lobby watching visas U.S. Travel, the nation's primary tourism-industry lobbying group, said last week it is "cautiously optimistic" that progress will be made on the issue of visa waivers for foreign visitors as a new wave of political players arrive in Washington.

One advantage for the industry: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is staying on, said Geoff Freeman, U.S. Travel's chief operating officer. Napolitano expanded the Visa Waiver Program in recent years to nations including Taiwan and Greece, and the Obama administration has directed federal agencies to improve the nation's ability to attract and welcome visitors.

South American nations continue to dominate the list of countries that the tourism industry would like to see added to the Visa Waiver Program, which allows visitors from approved nations to come to the U.S. without first applying for a visa.

"The South American countries are definitely the ones everyone's talking about. It's not just Brazil -- it's Chile and Argentina," too, Freeman said.

jrgarcia@tribune.com or 407-420-5414; skclarke@tribune.com or 407-420-5664 ___ (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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