Tourism industry working to bring in visitors despite water troubles

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FORT MYERS, Fla.- The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau says the first rule of brown water is: You don’t talk about brown water.

The brown, murky water off the coast of Southwest Florida has made this a challenging winter for the local economy, now the tourism industry is looking for ways to bring back some revenue.

“Not specifically addressing the brown water,” said Tamara Pigott, director of the Lee VCB. “Specifically, just trying to get them to come, explore our website, check out our destination.”

A digital campaign costing $125,000 in reserve funds is running for three weeks, focusing on other positive aspects of Southwest Florida, such as the warm weather.

“Maybe 72 degrees in Fort Myers, versus 24 degrees in Boston or Minneapolis as a way to entice people to come to the area,” Pigott said. “Our goal really was trying to attract a few additional people here immediately.”

Resorts and hotels say January was bad, February was slightly better, and March is off to a good start. But some visitors are leaving, disappointed, and vowing to find other places to warm up in 2017.

“The guests who experienced the bad weather in January in addition to the red tide bloom,” said John Lai, president of the Lee County Hotel Association, “my fear there is any new visitors won’t return to our area because of that experience.”

The hotel association is already lobbying for a bigger marketing budget for next fall to bring back those who maybe had a less than wonderful time here, this winter.

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