Following Florida lawmakers' tentative deal for the state's 2017-2018 budget, Gov. Rick Scott issued a strong statement about the $25 million allotted to Visit Florida, a $51 million cut from the current budget, according to press reports. Once legislators agree on a final budget, it will be sent to the governor for his signature.
"Lawmakers cannot be shortsighted at the expense of Florida families by cutting funds for tourism marketing and economic development. I would be absolutely shocked if politicians in Florida Legislature put their self-interests before the interests of our families and small businesses," Scott said. "Let's remember, fully funding Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida is only 0.24% of Florida's state budget. But, reducing this funding will have a significant impact on state, county, city, and local tourism and economic development boards' revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars."
Earlier this year, after initially threatening to eliminate the marketing organization 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 Florida 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.
On Tuesday, Florida's chief bond officer, Ben Watkins, penned a letter to state lawmakers, warning that even a 2 percent reduction in visitors would result in a loss of $2.2 billion in travel spending and $225 million in tax revenue. Watkins wrote: "Other states that do not rely on tourism as much as our state have reduced or eliminated their tourist development efforts and have experienced drastic revenue losses as a result."
For its part, Visit Florida today released a video that warns of the negative consequences of tourism funding cuts; you can view the video here.