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February 25, 2014updated Jul 31, 2015

Florida Broadens Appeal to Elite Travelers

By Chris Boyle




While Naples and Palm Beach have long been spots where the well to do flocked when the northern winters got nasty, over the past decade the state’s appeal to the affluent marketplace has diversified.  Eleven of the top 50 general aviation airports in the United States are in Florida with Ft. Lauderdale (Number 5 in the country), Orlando (Sanford and Kissimmee at 23 and 33 respectively) and Kendall-Tamiami (serving Miami at Number 8) all usurping Palm Beach (still in the top 50 at 40).


Private jet activity in fact has spread out across the state, and while not all related to high-end tourism, the skies filled with private aircraft are a reflection of business travel and investment as well.


State and regional tourism officials visiting New York said China, India and Brazil are all hyper growth markets on the international side, and promoters noted that while there is still lots of mass tourism (Orlando is the number one visited destination in the United States with 57 million annual visitors) luxury accommodations are growing statewide, and the trend to multi-generational family travel and experiential travel is drawing elite travelers to parts of the state that may not have been on your flight path in the past.


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As an example, the Kennedy Space Center offers private tours and can arrange private lunches with astronauts for elite travelers.  Event space and theatres can be rented for conferences or parties, and there are still regular launches if you want to see a rocket takeoff first hand, perhaps as part of your own private party.


In Tampa’s trendy SoHo district the new Epicurean Hotel has been luring affluent foodies in what is described as the first hotel entirely dedicated to people passionate about eating. James Beard noted chef Chad Johnson oversees Elevage and in the Epicurean Theatre there are ongoing events to plan your trip around.


Orlando is home to seven of the World’s busiest theme parks based on attendance, however a Visit Orlando official says the biggest secret is the plethora of VIP experiences now being offered.  In addition to programs where you can pay extra to get personal escorts and front-of-the-line access the various parks, each have been expanding their ability to create private events limited only by your dreams and budget.


The world’s largest Four Seasons will boost Orlando’s luxury inventory later this year (there is already a Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf Astoria).  There will be a rooftop restaurant providing a spectacular venue to watch the Disney fireworks, and the top floor of the hotel which includes its Presidential Suite will be available for buyouts providing a great base for a family vacation.


The National Business Aviation Association annual conference, the World’s largest private jet conference, also returns to the Sunshine State in October, also in Orlando.

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