These days when Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) meets with local hospitality industry colleagues, she anticipates questions of welcoming spring breakers back to the destination. To her pleasure, the collective answer continues to be a steadfast “no.”
For more than 20 years, this former South Florida student getaway has hung a philosophical “No Vacancy” sign for the wild and rowdy college crowd and a welcome mat for couples, families, friends on a getaway, international visitors and convention delegates.
Also during that time, gays flocked to Fort Lauderdale. In addition to being gay friendly, Gay Fort Lauderdale has more than 100 gay-owned establishments including hotels/guesthouses, bars, clubs and restaurants, plus the second largest Metropolitan Community Church congregation in the United States and three gay and lesbian publications. Gay Ft. Lauderdale has three popular gay beach areas on Fort Lauderdale’s 23 miles of wide, sandy beach.
“Returning to spring break as a quick tourism fix in a tough economy,” said Grossman, who has been at the helm of Broward County’s tourism marketing organization since 1995, “is clearly not the answer.
Our decision to end spring break in 1986 has driven visitor growth from one half million annually to 10.8 million visitors in 2008. It has allowed us to attract a significant investment in hotel, retail and restaurant development and build a first-class airport and convention center. And, a very small part of the visitor mix is about 15,000 students who visit each year in the springtime to enjoy our beaches.”
The big bonanza for Greater Fort Lauderdale is Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. For the first time in all of the years that the Super Bowl has come to South Florida, Greater Fort Lauderdale will host NFL headquarters, as well as the National Media Center. In addition, for the first time in 30 years, the NFL Pro Bowl is moving from Hawaii to South Florida for play on Sunday, January 31, one week prior to Super Bowl. The expected economic impact of these events is $375 million.
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