State Politics

Scott lends a hand with ‘Sunshine’ tour

Gov. Rick Scott pitched in Tuesday to help Florida’s tourism industry persuade cold-weary Northerners to take a Sunshine State vacation.

The new governor is taking part in a two-day “Share a Little Sunshine” tour that departed from Orlando after a public rally at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management on Universal Boulevard near the Orange County Convention Center. The event drew about 100 people.

“Part of my job is to let everybody know what a great state we have,” Scott said, adding, “this is going to be so much fun.”

The tour will stop in four of the state’s key visitor markets -- Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago -- before returning to Orlando with a planeload of promotion winners on free Disney vacations, according to Visit Florida, which is organizing the event.

Scott and a marketing team spoke with meeting planners and members of the public and will award Florida vacations as prizes on the four-city hop.

Visit Florida, the state’s quasi-private marketing arm, said the governor is “leading by example” by participating in the tour, which concludes today at Midway Airport in Chicago, at which point Scott and 120 promotion winners are scheduled to board the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 dubbed “Florida One” for the flight south to “defrost” in Florida’s sunny climate.

The governor had asked Visit Florida what he could do to support tourism, and having Scott as the campaign’s chief spokesman was a “no-brainer,” marketing director Will Seccombe said.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the Florida tourism industry,” Seccombe said. “There’s an awful lot to be said about the governor of the state going to your most important markets.”

The “Share a Little Sunshine” campaign was launched more than a year ago in response to the challenges facing the state’s tourism industry in the wake of the 2007-09 recession.

In addition to public service announcements and promotions, the campaign includes a Sunshine racecar driven by “Grey’s Anatomy” TV star Patrick Dempsey.

Scott isn’t the first governor to participate the campaign: Last February, then-Gov. Charlie Crist joined more than a hundred tourism industry representatives in Miami Beach in calling on Floridians to help strengthen the state’s economy by sending personal invitations to out-of-state friends and family, encouraging them to visit the Sunshine State.

For this year’s promotion, Visit Florida said, its industry partners contributed to the vacation packages that are being awarded, though the organization is picking up some of the cost, as well.

Floridians can participate in the promotion by becoming a “fan” of FloridaSunshine on the social-networking website Facebook or by visiting to send personalized e-cards to people they know.