How Visit Florida attracts record numbers

Don't tell anyone, but Tampa has no beaches.

Never mind that. Santiago Corrada and Visit Tampa Bay are leading Hillsborough County to record-setting tourism numbers.

Corrada, the president and CEO of the organization charged with marketing Hillsborough to tourists, spoke Tuesday at the American Marketing Association of Tampa Bay luncheon. He presented the hip vision that his organization has built to draw tourists.

One campaign centers on the burgeoning craft beer culture, billing it "Bay Crafted."

"We really are the Southeast's capital for craft beer," he said.  

Visit Tampa Bay's "Florida's Most" campaign points to Hillsborough's assets along with access to nearby Pinellas beaches and central Florida theme parks to draw visitors. The campaigns have reached such success that Corrada expects to reach the threshold to allow the County Commission to add a sixth cent to the local bed tax on tourists. Hillsborough would be the first "high impact tourism" county in Florida without alluring beaches or the draw of Disney World. A sixth cent of bed tax money could finance any number of things, including further efforts to draw tourists or a portion of costs of a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Corrada, a former chief of staff for two Tampa mayors who joined the organization then known as Tampa Bay & Company in 2013, said he recently had lunch with Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano, who jokingly complained that Visit Florida's success is boosting wait times a places such as Bern's Steakhouse and Goody Goody Burgers.

"I told him, 'Joe, you've got plenty of places to eat at the airport," Corrada said.