Florida's Space Coast marketing itself as tourism destination

It's easy to attract people to an area when you're launching rockets into space regularly, but the Space Coast has a lot more in store than just rockets.

Building more resorts and hotels are all part of bigger plans to make Brevard County a destination for visitors. The Space Coast Office of Tourism wants to make the county a place to spend an entire vacation – not just a place to pass through on the way to South Florida or the Orlando-area attractions.

"An underlying plan is to drive longer-term visits – Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Boston, Philly, D.C. are in there," said Space Coast Office of Tourism director Peter Cranis.

Cranis said their office is rolling out almost $9.8 million for their new marketing budget, hoping to attract people from all over the country.

While they are still waiting for the final round of approvals over the next two months – should the budget be given the green light – they plan to spend that money on advertisements and partnerships with the Melbourne Orlando International Airport and Port Canaveral, as well as securing locations for filming feature films and tv shows.

They are also hoping to stand out among rival beach destinations.

"We compare ourselves to a lot of other beaches out there like St Pete and Sarasota and Palm Beach, but we have grand aspirations to someday catch up with them!" Cranis added.

Cranis said they have a lot in the pipeline, with some hotels already underway and others in the works.  They have already added about 1,500 rooms and have identified 2,000 more rooms to build over the next three years.

"The big properties like the new Westin, the Westgate hotel at Cocoa Beach Pier, Margaritaville in Melbourne, those aren't even on my pipelines report because they haven’t gotten formally approved. The 2,000 hotel rooms I mentioned are just other hotels that are going up all across the county."

Cranis said they are campaigning to bring bigger names, larger-scale hotels, and resort-style properties to the area to develop a longer-term tourism strategy for the region.

"Right now, we are having a lot of success and growth so we are on the right path!" Cranis said.

On the other side of the coin, Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik said while expansion is necessary, there will be growing pains.

"We are a tourist community, we are very much a destination, but it is always a fiscal challenge to staff accordingly," he explained. "While our top taxpayers are in the hospitality industry, there is a strain to host all these folks."