Florida to hold virtual ‘beach walk’ to counter oil spill misperceptions

FLORIDA Visit Florida, the official tourism marketing corporation for the state of Florida, will host a real-time virtual tour of the state’s beaches next month in an effort to show prospective visitors that the effects of this summer’s oil spill are essentially gone.

The “Great Visit Florida Beach Walk,” set for November 6, will bring together thousands of residents and volunteers across the state to walk their favorite beaches, taking photos to prove that the beachfront areas are as pristine as ever.

Photos of Florida’s 825 miles of beaches will appear in the “Florida Live” feature on so potential visitors can see the latest beach conditions for themselves.  Florida Live was created in May to maintain consumer trust through the course of the crisis by providing real-time updates from destinations around the state, coupled with live webcams and consumer-generated content.

Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is providing cross-promotional support for the event via its outreach channels across the state.

“One of the great elements of Florida Live was the activation of Floridians to tell the real story,” says Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Visit Florida. “We reached out to our ‘Share a Little Sunshine’ fans on Facebook and asked them to post date-stamped images of our beaches—and they proved to be great fans. Recent focus groups told us those real photos, taken by real people, were really powerful.”

Studies conducted by Kerr & Downs Research show that people who visited were 31% more likely to visit Florida during and after the oil spill than those who had not been to the site. Recognized as a best practice for crisis management, Florida Live has proven to be an innovative use of technology and content to address the oil spill situation.

However, research also indicates a disturbing level of consumer misperception about the lingering physical impact of the oil spill on Florida’s beaches, making a significant number of leisure travelers less likely to visit Florida now versus before the oil spill—including many parts of the state that never experienced any physical impacts at all—leaving the Florida tourism brand tarnished.

 “One hundred percent of Florida’s beaches are clean and clear, but we still have a lot of work to do to clean up Florida’s image,” says Will Seccombe, chief marketing officer at Visit Florida. “The Great Visit Florida Beach Walk will allow us to make the point, once and for all, that every single one of Florida’s 825 miles of beaches is as beautiful as ever.”

Visit Florida has reached out to various organizations around the state to assist in the effort. To ensure that every mile of beach is represented, Volunteer Florida is organizing the volunteer walkers and photographers in each of the state’s 34 beach counties. Those interested in participating in the Beach Walk are being asked to register in advance at