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Collier seeks money for ad campaign to overcome bad press from red tide

Posted at 6:34 PM, Sep 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-28 18:34:30-04

This year's destructive red tide has hurt tourism in Collier County, just as it has hurt businesses in Lee and Charlotte Counties. So Collier's tourism bureau is planning to ask county leaders for hundreds of thousands of dollars for an aggressive marketing campaign to counter the negative press.

The red tide - which has caused fish kills along Southwest Florida beaches for months - is lingering in Collier, where dead fish were found Friday morning near the Naples Pier. The water there has been a distinctly dark-brown color for the past several days, and visitors have noticed the effects of red tide.

"After about five minutes, you can feel almost like an allergy effect," said Bryan McGroarty, who is visiting from Minnesota. "Burning eyes, coughing, and there's a stench."

Joe Belzotti of Naples said that local businesses are feeling the pain from a drop in tourism.

"We rely on tourism here, and it's definitely had an effect on the restaurant business that I'm in," Belzotti said.

Collier's tourism officials are planning a heavy campaign to sell the area as a tourist destination once the red tide clears, hopefully by mid-October. They'll ask county commissioners to approve $250,000 from the county's emergency fund for the campaign, and try to lure visitors back.

A spokesman for the Convention and Visitor's Bureau told Fox 4 that the plan is to have the ads saturate social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The ads would target people living in Northeastern and Midwestern states, as well as Canada.

The tourism bureau will also apply for a $70,000 tourism recovery grant from Visit Florida, the state's tourism department. They hope to begin running the campaign during the last half of October, if red levels go down by then.