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Tourism critical as Florida could take $70-billion hit from Hurricane Ian

Tourism critical as Florida could take $70-billion hit from Hurricane Ian
Tourism critical as Florida could take $70-billion hit from Hurricane Ian 02:40

MIAMI - "What if you were here in Fort Myers?" a lush female voice narrates the well-shot, beautiful, dated, video commercial promoting Fort Myers as a great place to spend time. 

The images are of Fort Myers the way it was, not the reality after Hurricane Ian gutted Southwest Florida. 

Now, the newspapers and TV outlets carry pictures of a broken tourism economy, shattered homes and lives. 

TV commercials from Fort Myers likely won't be on the air for a long time but elsewhere in the state, areas untouched by Ian are open for business. 

Bruce Turkel, a branding expert, worked for Miami-Dade County after Hurricane Andrew. 

Turkel was involved in shaping the area's media image after Andrew. 

"We are a very big state. So, the damage does not occur everywhere but your audience around the world does not know that." 

That is the dilemma facing those who promote tourism in this state, much of Florida is untouched and the tourism season is upon us.

The state of Florida's tourism marketing agency, Visit Florida, has paused advertising as it develops a campaign strategy to offset the images of the destruction in Fort Myers, Sanibel Island and Naples.

Andy Newman, whose public relations firm, Newman Associates, represents the Florida Keys says it is best to be low-key and provide factual information about the current status of the destination. 

Newman told CBS4 News, "We have been doing some media relations activity, social media, very soft positions to make sure people know the Keys Emerged unaffected. The Keys Tourism website's message? "We are open. Ian did not shut us down." 

"We are giving it a couple weeks, pause here before we launch a robust marketing campaign," he added.

And that's tricky according to tourism promoters. How do you trumpet sun, fun, all is well, when part of your state is in ruin? Turkel says, "It is a super fine line you have to walk."

Newman and Turkel dealt with promoting South Florida tourism after Hurricane Andrew. They know the delicate balance. 

You have to be careful about what you say and how you say it as parts of the state recover. Turkel says, "They can't say they are in bad shape but we are doing great."

Tourism professionals say that post-Ian, any tourism campaigns have to be produced in a sensitive way as the economic engine of tourism must continue to run while being mindful that some areas are reeling from destruction. 

Newman says, "It is a matter of time and patience, patience on all sides whether recovering from the damage or trying to get the tourism business back up and running. Patience is going to be a virtue here."

Future tourism promotion is critical as analysts predict Florida could take a $70-billion hit in economic losses from Hurricane Ian.  

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