Visit Gainesville Advertising Conversion Study

The purpose of this study was to ascertain the overall effectiveness and return on investment of Visit Gainesville/Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau’s (VG/ACVCB) promotional efforts to attract visitors to Gainesville/Alachua County, Florida. By a determination of the conversion rate of information inquirers to tourists to the county, Visit Gainesville was able to document a favorable return on investment for the expenditure of tax dollars. This study examined: 1) traveler characteristics, 2) information about traveler’s recent trip(s) to Gainesville/Alachua County (if applicable), and 3) marketing impacts of Visit Gainesville’s Visitors Guide, website, and social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. This project was led by Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray with support from her doctoral student, Ashley Schroeder. The project was funded by Visit Gainesville/Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

“Girlfriend Travel”: Women’s Friendship in Tourism

While leisure-based friendship has long been recognized as contributing to women’s health and well-being, tourism as leisure is growing in importance for many women. Yet, all-women, small-group travel has not yet been explored by tourism researchers. The purpose of this study was to investigate the growing phenomenon of female small-group travel, or what the industry calls “girlfriend getaways” and the role of friendship in this type of travel. Preliminary analysis revealed experiences associated with girlfriend getaways appear to have a therapeutic effect both in maintaining and recharging important relationships and by contributing to a woman’s sense of well-being and level of sanity. This project was led by Dr. Heather Gibson. This project is funded by the Bill Sims Faculty Research Grant.

Perceived Effects and Impacts of Gaming in Florida: Tourism Industry Professionals & Consumer Perspectives

This purpose of this study was to examine perceived effects and impacts of gaming in Florida among tourism industry professionals and consumers. For industry professionals, there were three objectives: 1) To gauge the sentiments, perceptions and intentions of Florida tourism industry professionals toward the current gambling situation; 2) To examine industry responses toward potential changes in gambling opportunities within the State; and 3) To evaluate the related potential impacts of those changes on the State’s tourism industry. Data were collected from 195 tourism industry professionals. The analysis included results in both the aggregate and segment samples such as comparisons between respondents residing in each of the three regions (North, Central and South Florida), and between those who held a management/director role versus those who were line staff employees.

For consumers, the study examined attitudes, perceptions, and intentions toward the possible expansion of gambling in Florida, and the potential impact of expanded gambling on the state and its tourism industry. Respondents were asked to provide their opinion on: 1) Preferences for gambling in general and, specifically of expanded gambling; 2) The likelihood and type of participation in gambling activities; 3) Preferred gambling regulations; 4) Travel intentions toward the State and specific Florida destinations given the presence or absence of expanded gambling venues; and (5) Demography and gambling addiction characteristics given the presence or absence of expanded gaming opportunities in Florida. Respondents were 18 years and older and consisted of adults residing in Florida (n=1223); and in non-Florida States (n=1213). Data were collected via a 20-minute online survey. This project was conducted on behalf of the Florida Legislature and Spectrum Gaming Group (Linden, New Jersey), and was led by Dr. Greg Dunn and Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray. To view the Florida Tourism Industry Gaming Study, click here. To view the full report, click here.

Public Awareness and Education: Agritourism in Antigua and Barbuda

The Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Tourism has committed itself to developing agritourism as a tourism attraction within the two island nations. The Ministry concluded that there is both need for awareness of and education on agritourism and how it can properly function in both Antigua and Barbuda. In response, a series of awareness seminars were conducted in Antigua on the following topics: 1) What is Agritourism? 2) How to Partner to Grow Agritourism Products, 3) What is Packaging? How Do You Create Award Winning Packages in Agritourism? 4) Why is Social Media Necessary for Promoting Your Agritourism Business? 5) How to Create a Winning Website. This project resulted in familiarization tours for workers in the tourism industry, additional workshops and private consultations, training on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), the development of an Agritourism Business Plan, and the creation of a Ministry of Tourism Agritourism Unit. This project was funded by Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas (FAVACA) and the Ministry of Tourism, Antigua and Barbuda. This project was led by Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray in conjunction with Jennifer Maynard (agritourism consultant for the Ministry of Tourism).

Role of Tourism for Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation in Bahundangi Village, Eastern Nepal

Leveraging on previous initiatives, this project aimed to use tourism and conservation education as the tool to assist implementing a multi-pronged strategy to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Bahundangi. The broader long-term goal was to develop a system whereby the community is self-reliant to mitigate the conflict in a sustainable manner. Within this theme, two objectives were formulated: 1) Conservation education for secondary schools; and 2) Tourism education and outreach via a regional international festival. Based on these, eco-clubs in six schools were established and helped produce and operate the second Asian Rural Tourism Festival for the dual purposes of raising money to provide relief for elephant victims, as well as to promote the tourism products of the greater region, inclusive of eastern India. The second festival was hosted in February 2013 with support from the Nepal Tourism Board. This project was led by a local community non-government organization-Nature Conservation Society, with assistance from EFTI (Dr. Brijesh Thapa and his graduate student, Bhuwan Dhakal). The project was funded by the Pacific Asia Travel (PATA) Foundation.

Tick-Borne Disease Symposium & Think-Tank Event

The first Tick-Borne Disease Symposium was hosted on December 5th, 2013 at the University of Florida. The program featured distinguished guest speakers, including Dr. Paul Auwaerter, Clinical Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Carina Blackmore of the Florida Department of Health, Dr. Kerry Clark of the University of North Florida’s Brooks College of Health, and Dr. Cynthia Lord of UF’s Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. The talks focused on the importance, contemporary, and transdisciplinary issues related to tick-borne disease in the U.S., and specifically in Florida. Three main topic areas for discussion were also facilitated: 1) key issues related to tick-borne disease in Florida; 2) research capacity development; 3) multidisciplinary collaborative opportunities; and 4) potential research funding sources. A poster session followed the presentations and featured the latest tick-borne disease research from researchers at UF and other U.S. institutions. This project was led by Dr. Holly Donohoe and funded by the UF Emerging Pathogens InstituteFor photos of the event, click here

Tourism Crisis Management Initiative: Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute

The level of preparedness for natural and human-induced disasters is of increasingly significant concern for governments and the private sector. Given the economic magnitude and the critical importance of the tourism industry, it is imperative for state and local governments to focus on prudent levels of preparedness and recovery efforts for the travel & tourism industry. Proactive measures such as development of tourism crisis management plans that strategically emphasize communication & training, visitor evacuation, and economic recovery will alleviate negative social and economic impacts. The Tourism Crisis Management Initiative was established in 2007 to assist the tourism industry in Florida and beyond with respect to comprehensive tourism crisis management initiatives. The Initiative is housed within the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute and is affiliated with other allied academic disciplines. The mission of the Initiative is to develop research-driven solutions to crises that address planning, preparedness, response, and recovery in local, state and national tourism economies. The vision is to be the premiere North American tourism crisis management initiative providing innovative, scholarly, and applied research driven service to private and public sectors. The project is funded by the University of Florida and is led by Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray.