Florida Gov. Rick Scott has proposed funding Visit Florida, the state's destination marketing office, with a robust $100 million budget for 2017-2018. With the Sunshine State drawing roughly 113 million tourists last year, Scott stated, "if we want even more tourists, we're going to have to spend more money; we have plenty of money in the budget … but the House has really limited our ability to market the state," according to press reports.
Gov. Scott's proposal comes just as Florida's Senate and House head into conference to work out the state's 2017-2018 budget. Earlier this year, after initially threatening to eliminate Visit Florida altogether following revelations
that the agency created controversial million-dollar marketing campaigns with hip-hop artist Pitbull, London-based Fulham Football Club and an International Motor Sports Association racing team, the House passed
HB 9, a bill to lower the DMO's budget to $25 million, cap salaries at the agency and increase transparency of its spending. In late March, the state Senate proposed giving Visit Florida a $76 million annual budget.
In a release supporting Scott's proposal, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow said, "Last year, Florida enjoyed record tourism growth
, despite a multitude of headwinds - growth that would not have been possible without the efforts of Visit Florida. The investment proposal of $100 million announced today by Gov. Scott demonstrates the value he places on tourism promotion to his state's economy, and represents exactly the kind of bold vision required to expand jobs for hard-working Floridians and further grow the state's tax base."
Dow added, "Floridians are fortunate to have a dynamic leader in Gov. Scott, whose convictions are informed by keen business sense. While some misguided Florida policymakers continue to question the state's budgetary commitment to tourism promotion in a penny-wise but pound-foolish ideological experiment, Gov. Scott has the right idea, looking ahead with a clear-eyed policy vision. Instead of shortsighted cuts to an agency that has done a world of economic good for Florida, Gov. Scott is embracing a growth-focused budget strategy that will keep good jobs in-state."