Monday, January 20, 2020

Supporters of Visit Florida scramble to save the tourism agency

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 10:10 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA ADOBE STOCK
  • Photo via Adobe Stock
State tourism officials intend to showcase to Florida lawmakers the importance of the industry on Wednesday, as a legislative battle on the future of Visit Florida continues to brew.

The Partnership for Florida Tourism, which includes the Florida Attractions Association, Destinations Florida, the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, will be hosting “tourism day” next week to drum up support for the embattled agency. The group is also slated to hold a mid-day rally at the Capitol.

Wednesday's "annual event is designed to educate the state Legislature, media, and all Floridians about the vital role tourism plays in job creation and a low tax burden in Florida,” according to a press release.

The fate of Visit Florida could be determined during the legislative session, as House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, continues pushing to eliminate the tourism-marketing agency. Oliva argues the state does not need Visit Florida to draw tourists, but Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Senate have continued to back Visit Florida.
Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has said the state must be able to market its tourism industry to combat negative images of hurricanes and polluted waters.



House leaders in recent years questioned some of Visit Florida's past contracts, including $1 million for rapper Pitbull to market the state, $1.25 million to sponsors of the British football club Fulham and $2.9 million to sponsor an IMSA racing team. Legislation (SB 362, HB 213) intended to keep the tourism-marketing agency operating through Oct. 1, 2028 has started to move in the Senate, but has yet to appear before a House committee.

Lawmakers last year cut Visit Florida’s funding from $76 million to $50 million, leading to layoffs. In his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, DeSantis has included $50 million to maintain the agency’s current funding.

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