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As Tampa's Airport Expands, DeSantis Touts Florida As A Global Destination

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Tampa International Airport Monday.
WUSF/Bradley George
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Tampa International Airport Monday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants more international tourists to visit Florida.

The governor spoke Monday at Tampa International Airport, which has added several direct flights to Europe and Central America over the last few years. DeSantis said since Florida has no income tax, tourist dollars help pay for government services.

“We are lucky to have people paying for our government, but not consuming the same services as a Floridian would, which is a good thing,” DeSantis said at a press conference in the airport's main terminal. The governor said he’ll promote Florida as a destination when he visits Israel on his first overseas trip next month. Israeli airline El Al will begin direct service between Orlando and Tel Aviv later this year.

DeSantis' push comes as lawmakers in Tallahassee consider defunding Visit Florida, the state's official tourism marketing agency. CEO Dana Young spoke at Monday's event and touted Visit Florida's work promoting the state around the world.

"We're competing globally," Young said, rattling off destinations such as Australia, The Bahamas, and Thailand. Young said money approved by the legislature helps her agency and local marketing groups like Visit Tampa Bay and Visit St. Pete-Clearwater. 

Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano said more flights to other countries are part of  his airport's $2 billion expansion project.

“We’re starting on phase two right now and phase three coming in the future will be a new international airside because of our international growth being as good as it is,” he said.

Delta will begin direct service to Amsterdam next month. The airport is also working to lure flights to Bogota and Mexico City.  Officials say international visitors have spent over a billion dollars in the Tampa region since 2012. 

According to The Tampa Bay Times, the increase in international tourism has led to more overseas buyers for houses and condos.

Since Icelandair began service to TPA, a number of retired Icelanders have bought property in Dunedin

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
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