Ken Lawson, Visit Florida's president and CEO
Following Gov. Rick Scott's call for a $100 million budget for Visit Florida, the DMO's president & CEO Ken Lawson has released a statement praising the proposal, calling it "a game changer that will increase our ability to compete so Florida remains a premier vacation destination and record numbers of tourists continue to visit our state and support our economy."
Lawson added, "If Visit Florida is funded at an all-time high of $100 million, we will be better able to successfully remove the visitation seasonality gap that many areas of the state currently experience. Having the funds to ensure that Florida's marketing efforts are 'always on,' we'll be able to attract visitors 12 months out of the year. Also, instead of a focus on protecting existing market share, $100 million would allow us to begin new marketing campaigns in several key domestic and international emerging markets."
Gov. Scott's proposal, announced on April 17, was made 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.
Lawson concluded: "I look forward to working with the legislature as we enter the final days of the legislative session to explain the importance of a fully funded Visit Florida. We will continue to present to Florida senators and representatives the information on Visit Florida's return on investment and the reforms we have made to increase transparency through an updated contract with the Department of Economic Opportunity. To put it simply, historic levels of funding for Visit Florida would mean historic success for Florida's tourism industry. I am confident that the legislature will agree that investing in Visit Florida at historic levels is too good of a deal for Florida taxpayers to pass up."