FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Fort Lauderdale — home of the iconic 1960s Spring Break film "Where the Boys Are" — boasts 23 miles of sugar sand beaches where bathing suit-clad tourists sip daiquiris under lazy palm trees. And then there's Broward County, known for hanging chads, election debacles and a namesake who championed draining the Everglades.
So which one has the name recognition to bring in the most tourism dollars? County and city stakeholders met Thursday to discuss possibly changing the name of Broward County, the second largest in the state with 1.8 million residents, to Fort Lauderdale County.
"When it comes to recognition, Fort Lauderdale has the juice literally and figuratively," said Jordan Zimmerman, chairman of Fort Lauderdale-based Zimmerman Advertising. "Fort Lauderdale is seen as a major port, a major destination, a world class recreation area, ideal climate, an ideal life, a great place to do business."
Tourism experts say a handful of counties around the country are also pondering name changes in an effort to market the most recognizable name in a region. About 15 years ago, Florida's largest county changed its name from Dade to Miami-Dade to capitalize on the name of its most famous city.
But critics counter the name change is a waste of money that will cost big bucks to change street signs, libraries, courthouses, ports and vehicles. The city of Fort Lauderdale is part of Broward County, which drew more than 12 million tourists last year.
And what about the dozens of other lesser-known cities that make up Broward that are also vying for tourism dollars, asked Hollywood City Commissioner Hon. Patty Asseff. Hollywood also has great beaches and has drawn stars — former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith died there. (But the legal battle turned media circus over her body was in Fort Lauderdale).
Broward County has been problematic for tourism officials from the start. Officials once considered marketing an animated character named "Howard from Broward" to sell the sunny beaches, but he was eventually nixed. Rumor has it that a former tourism chief once paraded around Vatican Square in an alligator suit to entice international tourists.