Visit Florida's new CEO, Ken Lawson
Florida's House introduced a bill late last week to abolish Visit Florida, the state's destination marketing organization, despite warnings from Gov. Rick Scott that shutting down the DMO would hurt Florida's economy and risk future job creation.
The House had threatened to cut the DMO's funding in December, following revelations that the agency had penned a million-dollar marketing deal with rapper Pitbull
, who produced a controversial video to promote the state that featured scantily clad models and lyrics some found degrading to women. That kerfuffle led the dismissal of several top Visit Florida officials and the resignation of former CEO Will Seccombe.
The bill also proposes banning professional sports teams from using local hotel bed taxes to fund new stadium construction or renovations, according to news sources.
In reaction to the new bill, Visit Florida's new CEO, Ken Lawson, penned the following missive to members:
"At Governor Scott's Jobs Summit in Orlando, I led a panel discussion on Visit Florida's vital role in ensuring [that] Florida's tourism industry remains the top tax revenue and jobs producer in the state. I told the more than 500 CEOs and business leaders in the audience that I was there to tell the truth, and the truth is Visit Florida matters.
"Our work as a force multiplier to help Florida tourism businesses get exposure on a global scale -- a feat they could not do on their own -- is essential to the state's continued prosperity. In concert with our more than 12,000 industry Partners throughout all 67 counties, over the past five years, we have grown visitor spending in the state from $87.4 billion to $108.8 billion.
"As we enter this year's legislative session, it's clear we are in for a fight. We certainly have Governor Scott's and other key leaders' support, and I assure you we are going to make our case, but we need your help. Here's what you can do:
• View and download
the slides Roger Dow, head of U.S. Travel, presented to the Senate Appropriations Committee last week that shows what can happen if public funding for tourism marketing is taken away.
• Go to TourismWorksForFlorida.org
to find the contact information for your local elected officials.
• Use the points from Roger's presentation to draft an email and send it to them as both a constituent and tourism industry employee who feels that continued funding for Visit Florida's efforts to market the state to visitors is essential to all Floridians."
The Florida state House (and Senate) begins a new 60-day legislative session on March 7, when this bill presumably will be taken up. Stay tuned.