Superstorm Sandy changed New York and New Jersey, leaving millions of victims in its wake.
But it won't change the way Lee and Collier counties market themselves to tourists in those states, or anywhere else over the coming year, at least for now.
Tourism directors are sticking with their marketing plans, which include advertising in the Northeast this winter despite all the damage from Hurricane Sandy last month.
The Northeast is a major feeder market for visitors in Southwest Florida. Last year, Collier County alone saw nearly 274,000 tourists from the region, up 8.7 percent from 2010.
"Certainly it's going to take a little bit of time for them to get back on their feet. There seems to be such a pent-up demand for travel that they'll find a way to get here," said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Even when big snow storms hit and close airports in the Northeast, most would-be travelers still find ways to get here, often just putting off their trip until the weather at home gets better, he points out.
Tamara Pigott, executive director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said she sees no reason to change her bureau's strategic marketing plan for this year, but she'll keep a close eye on the Northeast to "monitor the situation," in case there's a need to go in a new direction if visitor numbers from the region drop off.
She said there's no doubt people in crisis aren't focused on taking a vacation, but at the same time she sees the Northeast as a "super resilient marketplace."
"There are many, many people that were impacted, but there are also many, many people that were not impacted. And I don't think at this point in time anybody could say we've seen a huge drop in the Northeast. When it starts snowing is when we will see the bulk of those Northeasterners come down and we may know more then."
For Lee County, she said, the Midwest is a much bigger market for tourists so more of her bureau's marketing efforts are directed there.
However, in Collier, nearly 50,000 more visitors came from the Northeast than from the Midwest last year.
The marketing campaigns in the two counties this year will have a similar slant, focusing on what differentiates them from other sun and sand destinations in Florida and elsewhere.
Lee County has a new "find your island" theme. Collier County's slogan is "define your paradise," and along with that TV, print and online advertising will highlight cultural and dining options, as well as other draws, including beaches, spas, the Everglades and other natural attractions.
"It's asking the viewer to put themselves in our destination and asking what would they like to do while they are here," Wert said.
This year, Collier's bureau will not have a fall campaign. It planned to, but there were delays in getting the money for it and the bureau has been concentrating on a plan to add three new employees — a sales manager, a sports marketing manager and a digital marketing coordinator — to beef up its marketing efforts, Wert said. County commissioners must still approve the new hires and that vote isn't expected until next month.
With tourist taxes surging last year in Collier with a spike in visitors, Wert will have more money to market the county this year. The money comes from a 4 percent charge on hotel and other vacation stays in the county.
Lee's tourism bureau has a much larger marketing budget, getting a bigger share of its tourist tax, which is also a penny more at 5 percent. Its marketing campaign is already under way, with Sunday ads running in key markets, such as Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis and Minneapolis, Pigott said.
She said December is one of the bureau's lightest months for advertising.
"Most of our heavy advertising comes a little bit later," Pigott said. "You will see in March, April and May we really start to push summer really, really hard."