VISIT FLORIDA Grant Application Cycle Opens in December

Did you know that VISIT FLORIDA has a program in place which awards grants to help businesses market themselves and promote tourism in the State of Florida? If your hotel or restaurant hosts local events, or engages the community in a way that has significant economic impact in the tourism industry, you may consider applying for a VISIT FLORIDA Small Business Grant.

The Small Business Grant only has two easy-to-meet requirements to apply: Your business must be a Small Business Marketing Partner with VISIT FLORIDA and must not exceed $1.25 million in gross revenue annually. Your hotel or restaurant will also qualify if registered as a 501(c)(3) organization under IRS guidelines. This grant is a dollar for dollar matching grant, awarding up $5000 to a small business for the purpose of publicizing their tourism advantages in the State of Florida. This money can be used for marketing your business to promote tourism to Florida, from revamping your website to advertising an event your property hosts to draw in more visitors.VF Apply Now Button

In addition, VISIT FLORIDA administers the following grants:
• City-wide Meetings & Conventions Grant
• Advertising Matching Grant
• Cultural, Heritage, Rural and Nature Tourism Grant
• Minority Convention Grant

VISIT FLORIDA’s grant application cycle opens every December and closes in February. The application must be completed online; full details for the various grant programs can be found HERE including a list of prior year grant recipients.

VISIT FLORIDA also provides many marketing programs in addition to grants which can help businesses engage visitors and boost visitation. A Marketing Partnership with VISIT FLORIDA is a cost-effective and easy way to participate because it provides a host of benefits, including a robust listing on our website and in the Official Florida Vacation Guide. In addition to these features, you can also request posts to display on VISIT FLORIDA’s social media channels, furthering your reach to Florida visitors. Other benefits that indirectly help you target potential patrons include access to visitor research and free online hospitality training for front-line employees.

Visit the Online Marketing Planner to review opportunities to maximize your advertising budget and reach target audiences. Marketing Partners receive discounts on advertising and co-op programs ranging from 20% to 40% off, too! Some programs of interest include brochure distribution at the Official Florida Welcome Centers, a TripAdvisor Homepage Takeover, and World Travel Market. Opportunities in the planner are updated frequently, and include programs of all price ranges, so there is something for everyone’s budget.

VISIT FLORIDA’s goal is to maximize the economic impact of travel and tourism to Florida. By offering resources to businesses such as yours, we aim to empower you to continue bringing in more patrons to your hotels and guests to your restaurants. Join VISIT FLORIDA today!VF Apply Now Button
Article by Kate Chunka and Duncan Graham

Kate Chunka is the Partner Relations & Industry Communications Manager at VISIT FLORIDA®
Duncan Graham is the Partnership Services Coordinator at VISIT FLORIDA ®

Free WiFi: So Much More Than a Customer Service

When it comes right down to it, there are only three ways to increase same-store revenues: get more customers, get existing customers to return more often, or get them to spend more on each visit either by selling them more product or by charging more for what they are already buying. Anything else is just a variation on one of those basic themes.

Sales promotion has long been used to drive these sorts of customer behaviors. Until recently, however, a challenge has been that it is often hard to target promotions to specific customers in order to maximize response and minimize waste. Promoting blindly can be costly. A coupon in the newspaper or dropped to a mail route may reach new prospects, but also risks discounting existing customers who would have been happy to pay full fare. These aren’t the results that stores want or need.

But what if you had the ability to identify and segment customers based on traits such as how often they visit your location, how long they stay, or how much they spend while they’re there? And what if you could target specific customers and trigger promotions automatically based on such behaviors? Three recent advances have made this easy for single- and multi-location stores alike, and explain the current surge in location-based customer analytics and marketing.

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Request for Letters of Interest Osceola County

We’re proud to present opportunities for our members to grow their businesses throughout Florida. Below, is information on a Request for Letters of Interest from our friends in Osceola County.

  • This request includes a minimum of three hotel sites on properties owned by the County. Two of the hotels are planned for a major entertainment venue development and another hotel is included in a high-tech research mixed-use development.
  • Interested parties will need to register as a Vendor with Osceola County. Please see this FLYER for more information. Additionally, please note, this solicitation will be released in January 2016.
  • Interested parties please contact Rebecca Jones, Procurement Services Director directly. Her contact information is:
    • Rebecca Jones, CPPB, CPPO
      Procurement Services Director
      Osceola County BOCC
      1 Courthouse Square, Suite 2300
      Kissimmee, Florida 34741
      v. (407)742-0928
      f. (407)742-0901

Announcing Great Florida Events!

FRLA’s In-State Marketing Program, newly re-branded as Great Florida Events, is sponsoring several events in 2015 – 2016 designed to draw Florida residents to unique events happening across the state.

Bulls on the Beach kicked off our event series with a rodeo featuring professional cowboys for two nights on Perdido Key hosted by the Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar. Next up, was the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest in Southwest Florida. Captiva Island, Ft. Myers Beach and Downtown Ft. Myers showcased more than 70 songwriters in 138 performances throughout the area over ten days.

The Sixth Annual Endless Summer Music Festival was held in Sandestin at the Village of Baytowne Wharf. This songwriters’ festival boasted 14 songwriters at numerous venues throughout the village. Our latest event, Blast on the Bay was held on Florida’s Forgotten Coast during a glorious weekend of cool nights and warm days. More than 30 songwriters played in Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and Indian Pass.

Attendees at all of the songwriters’ festivals were treated to some of Country’s biggest hits, songwriters and the stories behind the songs. In addition, the Official FSU Seminole Tailgate is happening every Friday night before home football games and with live music, onsite vendors, and special appearances by celebrities and musicians, it has been a blast so far! Coming up, we have planned several more events that will be certain to thrill you.

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December 30, 2015: The Florida Citrus Parade in Orlando is one of the largest parades affiliated with a sporting event in the nation! High school marching bands, participating bowl game college marching bands, floats decorated with citrus, and other exciting happenings are all part of this awesome parade through downtown Orlando. Learn more here.


January 24, 2016 – The Crab Smash & Oyster Bash Seafood Jubilee will be held in Port Canaveral. The kids are the stars at this fundraiser for Brevard County’s High School Culinary Programs as they prepare a seafood feast for visitors at the historic shrimp dock at Port Canaveral, FL. Enjoy Live Cajun Zydeco music while dining on Florida seafood!

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February 6-7, 2016: Clearwater Beach Uncorked is “touted as the hippest beachfront gastronomic event on Florida’s west coast.” Microbrews are also featured during this fabulous weekend on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Get all the details.


February 27-28, 2016: The Downtown Food & Wine Fest is a two-day food and wine festival in the streets of Orlando, and trust us, this is where you want to be the last weekend of February! Signature dishes and bites from 30 of Orlando’s top restaurants will be featured along with domestic and international wines and live entertainment. If you need a break, stop by The Liquid Lounge to listen and dance to the music of Orlando’s hottest DJs. Find out more!

Stay tuned to FRLA for more information about our upcoming events!

Making Technology Work For You

Technology has been and can be a huge asset to many businesses. In today’s society, there are so many different technological tools and resources to make your business better. Oftentimes what businesses don’t consider is how these tools can help retrieve the information they need to increase productivity and customer communication which will ultimately increase their profits. Examples of these tools include, loyalty programs, gift cards and email marketing. These different options help to benefit your company by extending reach, creating engagement, retaining customers and receiving feedback. Loyalty programs, gift cards and e-mail marketing are ways to help to focus on your current clients by retrieving information about their visit and notifying them about potential offers and deals. The goal is to keep your current customers loyal and happy which will result in increased sales and revenue.

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Another benefit of these technological tools is that they provide vital customer data which can be used to help to grow your business. Wi-Fi is an example of a technological tool that provides customer data which can help grow your business. Wi-Fi is no longer and “added plus” but is something that is expected to be included in most operating businesses. This form of technology will not only benefit your customers but will benefit your business as well. According to the media company,, “There is no better purpose for an organization to provide a good experience to their customers and information technology helps provide the infrastructure to manage customer data.” When customers connect to a supplier’s Wi-Fi it gives the customer a good experience and in return the supplier is able to retrieve and manage customer data and customer feedback. This new information is a huge asset because now as a business you are able to use the collected data to conduct market research. The market research will help to inform your business what you need improve upon and where you need to move your focus to keep your customers loyal. Without having this data as a business you are lacking vital information that has the potential to help maintain and grow your company.


Almost all businesses want to use technology; however, most of them don’t want to deal with the labor that comes with it. Unfortunately there have not been many efficient ways when it comes to growing a company’s user base due to the manual process it takes to collect and enter this data. There is no need for a business to hold the responsibility of manually collecting and calculating the loyalty, proximity and usage of a customer. Oftentimes this leads businesses to avoid these tools altogether. What they don’t understand is that by avoiding these tools altogether; they are lacking vital information that has the potential to help their business grow tremendously. Luckily, there are companies like Captive Eyes who help to create that interactive experience for your customers, while automating data collection for third party systems. Technology is a beautiful thing and if used efficiently can benefit your business greatly, increasing sales and profits.

The View From Membership

Suffice to say the first seven months of 2015 have been busy for our Membership Team. But, I’m not going to drone on about every single thing we’re doing instead I’d like to point out four key triumphs.

  • Thanks to strong efforts by our Regional Directors and Managers, overall membership is up and we’ve seen an uptick in attendance throughout our chapter events. Additionally, we’ve been able to hire two new Regional Directors including a renewed effort in Pensacola – an area that had been dormant for too long. We’re excited to see what the future holds!
  • In Central Florida, Broward, and Palm Beach we’ve rolled out new grass root efforts to truly bring our influence to the local level and help identify key issues we can address in our members’ back yards. We anticipate continuing this program in several cities soon.
  • We’ve successfully revamped our entire website. This massive project was a long time coming and we couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out. With our friends at Sparxoo’s help, we truly believe we’ve now established the best hospitality association website in the country and we look forward to using it to better serve our members at every turn.

As I noted, this is a small glimpse at what we’ve been working on throughout the year. There are several on-going projects and day-to-day work we’re thrilled to do on your behalf and it’s an honor to represent more than 10,000 hotels and restaurants on a daily basis. If you ever have any questions or need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly at 850-224-2250.


Dan Murphy

Vice President, Membership and Corporate Relations

FRLA’s Fresh Feeling

Here in Florida, we’re continuing to break tourism records. This past year, we welcomed 98.9 million people! They came here to experience our fantastic hospitality industry that offers unique amenities, exceptional meals and outstanding service. Plus, the scenery is not too shabby. Florida is home to picturesque beaches and sunny weather.

We want our website visitors to share that same Florida experience. So, we freshened up a bit. Welcome to the newly improved We redesigned it to better reflect our remarkable members who help make our great state a wonderful place to live, work and play.

In addition to the revitalized aesthetic, we truly believe this website will help you easily navigate through all of FRLA’s offerings. We worked to develop innovative features that are new to the user experience. The Government Relations tab offers legislative advocacy resources developed exclusively to safeguard Florida’s hospitality industry. The Newsroom provides the latest industry updates and showcases FRLA’s originally produced digital media. The Events section easily filters all FRLA occasions to give members a chance to attend all corporate, chapter and sponsored events. Our Education and Training tab continues to provide you with wonderful business resources. Plus, a revamped Educational Foundation site is now integrated with FRLA’s main page.

We want to make sure you have access to all of the tools you need to remain engaged with FRLA. After all, our association was created by and for restaurateurs, hoteliers and industry leaders. We hope you’ll enjoy your tour through our new site and get that same fresh feeling we have.

As always, we are here to protect, educate and promote the hospitality industry. Thank you being a part of the FRLA.

– Carol B. Dover, FRLA President and CEO