Pinellas spending $1.5 million to lure European visitors

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A big push is on to sell Pinellas County to the rest of the world. For people in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scandanavia, Pinellas is a vacation hot-spot.

“They like the American-ness of this destination,” St. Petersburg-Clearwater Convention and Visitors Bureau director David Downing said. “We don’t really ask them to define that because they have this idea of what it means to be American.”

For decades, Pinellas leaders have marketed the county to Europe. Now, it’s spending $1.5 million tax dollars to continue that big push over the next five years with an emphasis on the U.K.

“The U.K. is our number one international market,” Downing said. “About 25 percent of the people who come to St. Pete-Clearwater are international visitors and the U.K. leads the list,” he said.

Downing tells News Channel 8 roughly 650,000 Brits visit Pinellas each year. The average stay is two weeks.

In February, the CVB does a massive takeover in the U.K. with television spots promoting Pinellas as well as print ads on double-decker buses and inside subway stations, Downing said.

Research shows visitation from the U.K. increased more than 15 percent from 2010 to 2015. It’s expected to go up another 3.5 percent next year.

“The tourism industry is an important factor here in Pinellas and also all of Florida,” said local business owner George Comninel, whose company sells big bakeries with the ingredients they need, including plenty of local hotels. It thrives when tourists come calling.

“We’ve been very successful in attracting tourists,” he said about Pinellas.

Pinellas has some competition. The CVB reports Seychelles and Dubai are two other warm climates people from Europe tend to pick, if not Pinellas. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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