June 7, 2023 — Florida is known for its great weather and beautiful beaches, but why are people really flocking to the sunshine state? A University of Florida survey examined the various factors involved in visitor decision-making and found that social media plays a huge role in why people visit Florida.
“The state of Florida is filled with an array of attractive options for visitors,” said Rachel J. C. Fu, Ph.D., director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute at UF and chair of the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management in UF’s College of Health and Human Performance. “Visitors can enjoy beaches, theme parks, cultural and historical attractions, sports and festivals, outdoor activities, wildlife and nature, entertainment, and winter escapes for the snowbirds.”
Fu’s travel survey examined types of information people consumed when looking to vacation in Florida and how they felt it impacted their decision-making, including their intention to book their trip.
The 12 variables examined include: infrastructure development; culture and history; tourist attractions; technological advancement; resources stewardship; price competitiveness; destination personability and images; openness/hospitality; traditional vs. digital marketing campaigns; intervention frequency and crisis management; crowdedness level; and frequency of hosting conventions/trade shows.
In the online survey of 1,528 U.S. citizens, 760 Floridians and 768 non-local visitors participated. Respondents were asked to rank the importance of listed factors that impact their travel decisions. Significant numbers of non-Florida visitors were from Texas, California, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, and Tennessee.
Forty percent of the total respondents said they were impacted by social media, 18% by TV/travel related programs, and 14% by travel articles and news when they made their destination decisions.
“These findings give valuable insight for marketers in the tourism industry throughout the state,” Fu said. “They would be wise to focus their efforts on social media to attract consumers to visit Florida.”
Both local visitors and non-Florida visitors indicated that beautiful scenery, price competitiveness, destination images, varieties of culture and history, tourist attractions, level of hospitable communities/residents, and level of crowdedness all impacted their travel decisions.
Respondents mentioned Orlando, Miami and the beaches most frequently when asked to provide their top three destinations.
When asked to provide what they liked most about their most recent trips to Florida and beaches, participants were most likely to list Disney and fun. When asked to provide three things that need to be improved in Florida, respondents were most likely to list traffic, crowdedness, and prices.
“The scenery and experiences Florida offers are unique to anywhere else in the country,” Fu said. “Visitors are highly influenced by the stories and experiences of others they see on social media. Respondents’ top three travel motivations included relaxing physically and mentally, spending time with their family, and relieving stress and tension.”
About the University of Florida
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