Florida Governor Announces Historic Investment in Tourism

Florida’s destination marketing organization, VISIT FLORIDA, will receive $100 million in funding — the largest tourism investment in state history — if his proposed 2014-15 budget is passed, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced last week.

Scott’s proposed budget, which he has dubbed the “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget,” takes advantage of Florida’s first budget surplus in six years to cut $500 million in state taxes and fees. VISIT FLORIDA’s $100 million allocation — up from $63 million presently — would be used to market the Sunshine State year round to domestic visitors, increase marketing to international visitors and assist communities in attracting direct international air service to Florida.

“Last year, we secured more than $63 million in our ‘Florida Families First Budget,’ for VISIT FLORIDA and we made record gains in tourism,” Scott said in a statement. “We are on track for another record year, and we hope to build on this incredible momentum and make the Sunshine State the No. 1 travel destination in the world. To do that, we are going to recommend an historic $100 million in our ‘It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget’ this year. Because every 85 visitors to our state supports one Florida job, a growing tourism industry equates to more jobs for Florida families and a stronger economy.”

Through the first three quarters of 2013, Florida welcomed 72.6 million visitors, up 3.4 percent from the same period in 2012. Likewise, visitor spending through August 2013 was $51.8 billion, a year-over-year increase of 5.8 percent. Both are records, according to Scott, making the first three quarters of 2013 the largest nine-month period in the history of Florida tourism.

Said VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Will Seccombe, “On behalf of the statewide tourism industry, I am grateful to Gov. Scott for his recognition of VISIT FLORIDA’s ability to provide a significant return on the state’s investment in tourism marketing. The governor’s visionary leadership puts us in a position to make 2014 another record year for visitation and fuels the momentum that has Florida on track to become the No. 1 travel destination in the world.”

The investment was praised by tourism leaders not only in Florida, but also nationally.

“Boosting tourism is one of the easiest and most effective ways to bring dollars into any economy, and Florida is one of the best case studies for that phenomenon,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Florida had a record-setting 2013 in terms of travel job growth and visitor spending, for which the state’s top-flight tourism marketing agencies deserve a huge measure of credit … By boosting the state’s commitment to tourism promotion by 59 percent, Gov. Scott is betting on a proven, consistent winner for Florida and Floridians.”