TODAY   |  March 15, 2014

Florida sees tourism spike as winter-weary Americans escape cold

As the brutal cold and snow hit much of the country this winter, many Americans went looking for an escape into the sunshine. The need for sun helped to create a booming business for travel agents in Florida. NBC's Janet Shamlian reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> if you look at your calendar, we know it's the middle of march. many of us still dealing with bitterly cold weather , as dylan pointed out, even the possibility of snow on st. patrick's day, but it turns out it's not all bad news. janet shamlian found out that florida's tourism industry is red hot .

>> reporter: it's as if winter has been on steroids. for tens of millions, the bitter cold, snow and ice have been unrelenting. one storm on top of another.

>> no snow. no more of that stuff.

>> reporter: it's been a mean season, and it's got many in the cold zone dreaming of this, the sand, the surf, and temperatures warmer than they are at home. travel agents have been swamped with calls from winter-weary americans.

>> business has been amazing. the more snow, the more people want to go.

>> reporter: jim and sue nelson booked a trip to ft. lauderdale . sick of pennsylvania's never-ending winter.

>> i feel like i've been living in a cave, and it's time to get out and see the sun again.

>> reporter: the nelsons are here for a welcome week away from shoveling snow.

>> morning temperatures have been zero, minus 2, minus 5 , i think as far down as minus 10.

>> having mother nature as a marketing partner is about as good as it gets.

>> reporter: cities catering to beach-lovers have increased their advertising budget, hoping to take advantage of those fed up and ready to head out. ft. lauderdale has a billboard in new york's times square , and the it's so miami social media campaign is aimed at attracting more visitors to south florida , a blitz that has paid off.

>> for the first couple months, we are seeing growth of upwards of 18%.

>> reporter: in ft. lauderdale , 40 hotels are sold out this weekend, well ahead of spring break .

>> we just continue to see sellouts from northerners really coming down to just escape it all.

>> reporter: tish and 11-month-old hugo fled snowy columbus.

>> it's been great for us all, especially him.

>> reporter: the prescription for winter fatigue, an escape from a mean season with spring just days away . janet shamlian , nbc news, daytona beach .

>> dylan has been to every cold spot , every storm.

>> i think it's time for dylan to go somewhere warm.

>> i pitched trying to cover that story, but i didn't get it.

>> from hawaii! from hawaii she tried to pitch covering that story.

>> but the only reason that didn't work is because it's dark there when we're live, right?

>> that's true.

>> miami, it's light. i'm going to start a petition.

>> i have one other reason, they're two separate places, but that's a smaller detail, minor.

>> or just wait here until june.

>> i'm waiting.