Spotlight On: Michael Corrigan, President & CEO, Visit Jacksonville

Spotlight On: Michael Corrigan, President & CEO, Visit Jacksonville

2021-10-22T13:38:12-04:00October 22nd, 2021|Jacksonville, Spotlight On|

Visit Jacksonville2 min read October 2021 Michael Corrigan, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville, remains optimistic about the city’s tourism outlook as travel returns.  In an interview with Invest: he said he sees great opportunities for investors in areas like resort properties. “I think we are heading toward a very bright future,” Corrigan said.

What do you think separates Jacksonville from other Florida tourism markets?

There’s not one single thing. It’s interesting that during these times it has more to do with what we do have than what we don’t have. Jacksonville is not an amusement park destination, the city is a unique travel destination and our visitors are evenly split between business, personal and family travel. 

During COVID-19, the city has seen an increase in family leisure travel. We are tailor-made for that with more miles of oceanfront and public parks than any other Florida destination. Jacksonville is 840 square miles and the size of our city has been an asset throughout the pandemic. Jacksonville was one of the first beaches in the country to reopen and people haven’t forgotten that.

How did you adapt your marketing strategies in the wake of the pandemic?

We market to both leisure and business travel. When COVID hit, we focused on marketing how to get out of the house and enjoy wide-open spaces like the beautiful outdoors, the park system and places to go and experience Jacksonville. We took advantage of the fact that those elements are incredible ambassadors for us. 

When travel did start again, we knew those places would be attractive so we spent a lot of energy improving our website and mobile app. I’m spending a lot of time on the local news stations and the morning shows to promote what we did and what you can do in Jacksonville. There is a lot to do here. I’ve lived here my whole life and I still haven’t seen half of what the city has to offer.

How is the labor shortage affecting the local hospitality industry?

It’s been a challenge. We’re seeing demand and so we need to respond with amazing staffing and that is extremely difficult to do right now. Like many communities around the country getting workers back, or workers in general, has been difficult for several reasons.  Restaurants and hotels have been more creative in managing the staffing difficulties. The fact that we’ve been able to recover to the current level speaks volumes for our local tourism sector.

What are the investment opportunities in Jacksonville’s tourism market?

There are phenomenal opportunities. Our hotel occupancy numbers are recovering strongly and we added 1,000 rooms last year during one of the most challenging years we’ve ever seen. What this means is an investment in Jacksonville can pay dividends almost immediately. 

Jacksonville’s opportunity now is to look at its hotel inventory and determine the types of rooms we will need going forward to make it a stronger destination. What we need in Jacksonville are more full-service or resort properties. We are underserved in that area and I’m hoping developers and investors see it as an opportunity to take advantage of. Right now, the owner of the NFL’s Jaguars is proposing to build a Four Seasons Hotel property down by the stadium on the riverfront. We need more hotel properties like that, catering to both business and leisure travel.

What are some key tourism-related development projects planned for the Jacksonville market?

There are a lot of projects and a good number are focused on the Downtown riverfront. There’s a master plan in the works that will create public access points to the river. Part of that will be the Four Seasons Hotel along with an outdoor performing arts area. The Museum of Science and History that’s currently located on the south side of the river would be part of that complex. 

There’s a plan to connect the stadium back to Downtown in about a mile-long stretch. There’s also a proposed riverfront park where The Jacksonville Landing used to be. It’s all going to be iconic, and cities need iconic places. I’ve spent my whole life here and I’ve been waiting for it to happen. I’m excited that it’ll happen while I’m in this leadership position.

What is your outlook for the tourism and hospitality sector in Jacksonville?

Because of the way that we’re recovering, I think it’s sustainable. I’m optimistic but I’m much more focused on two or three years from now when traveling anywhere will again be possible. That’s when we’re going to see the results of what we’re doing now. I think we are heading toward a very bright future.

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