by Lisa A. Grimaldi | August 04, 2017
Following the fallout of the recent battle to let Visit Florida keep its annual $76 million budget, a number of local Sunshine State destination marketing organizations are reconsidering their ties with the state's tourism promotion board. The new law imposes broad restrictions on contracts, staff salaries and travel and entertainment for Visit Florida, as well as tourism boards that participate in its targeted marketing assistance program.
 
Concern over the new restrictions has led to a dozen tourism groups, including Visit Tampa Bay, to break off co-op advertising partnerships with Visit Florida, according to press reports.
 
Visit Tampa Bay's CMO Patrick Harrison released the following statement to M&C, in explanation of his organization's stance: "Visit Tampa Bay has enjoyed a successful relationship with Visit Florida and, in fact, we were one of four premier-level sponsors for their London Takeover in January of this year. Tourism is our state's number-one industry, so we work diligently to maximize our budgets to bring that business to the Tampa Bay community. With all the disruptions and uncertainty at Visit Florida, Visit Tampa Bay and around a dozen other major DMOs in the state have decided to take a wait-and-see approach to the new campaigns. Given the loss of senior staff at Visit Florida -- and, of course, that experience and knowledge, particularly in international markets -- and the current uncertainty of Visit Florida's marketing plan, we have put our relationship on hold. Visit Tampa Bay has to be certain that the goals and objectives of our community are aligned with Visit Florida before making a decision to renew the relationship. In the meantime, we and other major destinations in Florida are working on other strategies for promoting our destinations."
 
Other DMOs whose relationship with Visit Florida reportedly are being evaluated are Amelia Island, Brevard County, Discover the Palm Beaches, Experience Kissimmee, Florida Keys & Key West, Franklin County, Orlando North/Seminole County, Santa Rosa County, Visit Orlando and Visit South Walton, while 46 local tourism partners remain with Visit Florida.
 
In a statement shared with M&C, Discover the Palm Beaches president and CEO Jorge Pesquera said, "Discover the Palm Beaches has and continues to support the important work implemented by Visit Florida, as evidenced by our active and significant lobbying efforts during the last legislative session. We will continue to evaluate Visit Florida's sales and marketing opportunities on a case-by-case basis, for possible integration within our destination marketing plan."

M&C also reached out to the Greater Miami CVB for comment; at press time, they had not responded.
 
For his part, Visit Florida's president and CEO Ken Lawson said late Wednesday on his corporate blog that he has started to "humbly" reach out to different groups across the state. "I want to earn your trust and learn from you first-hand," Lawson wrote. "This has been a hard year for all of us."