Post-Hurricane Hard Sell Is On
MIAMI (AP) _ A nervous tourism industry launched a hard sell Thursday to get visitors to Florida in spite of the destruction from Hurricane Andrew.
″Florida, We’re Still Open,″ proclaimed an advertisement filling two- thirds of a page in USA Today. The small corner of Dade County was outlined on the map of Florida, and half of it was highlighted as the ″most affected area.″
″Quite honestly, we’re protecting a $29 billion-a-year business,″ said Gary Stogner, state tourism director. ″We’re all on the front line right now, all of us in this business.″
Less than 10 miles of the state’s 1,000 miles of beach were affected, the ad said. The only public beaches mauled by Andrew were on Key Biscayne and at Homestead Bayfront Park, a local retreat.
American Airlines, the city’s biggest carrier with 147 flights a day, had more than half running Thursday at Miami International Airport, which was closed for two days.
The cruise industry took a minor hit after sending full ships to sea last weekend. Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines canceled one four-day cruise each this week but will head out again Friday.
Traffic between Miami and the Florida Keys remained heavy Thursday.
In Miami, ″downtown hotels and the ones on the beach are in good shape structurally. The biggest problems are utilities, and it doesn’t make sense to say come on down if we can’t offer people the level of service they would expect,″ Stogner said.
The oceanfront Fontainebleau Hilton’s sunken lobby was flooded, but the hotel plans to re-open Sept. 3. Several small hotels in Miami Beach’s Art Deco district are operating after getting back power and clearing sand off the streets.
Many inns are doing better than ever in a short-term reward for proximity to the destruction. Rooms in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have been booked by evacuees and relief workers.
John Rutherford of the Orlando-Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau told Stogner in a statewide teleconference of tourism officials that he had heard about one Orlando hotel with $30 rooms charging $90 a night.
State officials already have issued a stern warning.
The newspaper ad offered a telephone number for people planning trips, and state Commerce Department spokeswoman April Herrle said many people are using it.
″People have very basic questions,″ she said. ‴Can I still get to Tampa?′ ‘Yes.’ Things like that.″