We don’t agree a whole lot on Gov. Rick Scott’s performance in office, but in the case of Visit Florida, the governor is correct in battling lawmakers to keep it.
In a state where the proposed 2017-18 budget is $83.5 billion, Scott’s proposed $76 million for Visit Florida is a drop in the bucket.
Visit Florida is the state’s public-private tourism agency. It promotes the Sunshine State statewide as a whole and individual communities. For example, a visit to its website Tuesday showed topics such as “Florida Road Trips” — illustrated with a photo at the top of the home page of a stretch of U.S. 1 in the Keys. The home page also had features on Orlando, Destin, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, fishing, golf, biking, hiking, paddling, food, attractions, an events calendar and “current travel safety information.”
There are numerous drop-down tabs with current travel deals, weekly events and more.
Here’s how it works, according to Visit Florida: “Each year, the Florida Legislature appropriates public funding to be allocated for tourism marketing. Visit Florida is required to match those public funds dollar for dollar, which is done by actively recruiting the state's tourism industry to invest as partners through cooperative advertising campaigns, promotional programs and many other pay-to-play ventures.”Visit Florida also has people working in Europe, Asia, Latin America and elsewhere to promote travel to our state.
All of that helped lead 106.6 million tourists to spend a combined $89.1 billion in Florida in 2015, Visit Florida says.
Under Scott, the state has had no problem budgeting for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development partnership, though it, too, is marked for slashing by legislators who call it less than transparent. Scott wants $85 million for it next fiscal year.
There has been considerable backlash to state House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s effort to kill both. We believe that Enterprise Florida does need improvement. It spends money to attract businesses that sometimes get earmarks, then don’t provide what they said they would to add to our economy.
Visit Florida, on the other hand, really drills down deep into helping individual communities get noticed, communities that often don’t have the resources to do much marketing. Monroe County is not one of them, as the Tourist Development Council spends money outside Florida and in Europe promoting the Florida Keys.
Tourism is Florida’s No. 1 industry and it’s not just the sunshine and warm weather that bring people here. There are attractions and events and more that also lure them. The Legislature can’t ignore using state money to help promote our No. 1 industry.