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While the number of U.S. and Canadian tourists is growing, industry leaders say the slowing pace of Florida tourism is a major concern.

The most recent quarter, July through September, saw the lowest rise in visitors to Florida since 2010, with an increase of only 1.1 percent over the same period a year earlier. That's compared to the average quarterly gain of 6.2 percent for the last nine years.

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration wants to boost spending next year on a controversial economic-development program, while tourism-marketing money wouldn’t increase, according to budget requests rolled out last week.

people at the beach
Lisa Peakes/WUSF Public Media

Bolstered by U.S. and Canadian tourists, Florida’s visitor count continued at a record pace through the second quarter of 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office said Thursday.

Visit Florida Slashes Staff

May 24, 2019
@pitbull / Twitter

Visit Florida cut one-third of its staff Thursday, slashing its payroll after the state Legislature cut funding for the tourism agency by 34 percent. 

More visitors are coming to the sunshine state, according to new figures released by the state. But the state is losing ground on tourists from out of the country.

Florida announced today that 35.7 million visitors came to Florida in the first quarter – a new record.

“As we work to diversify Florida’s economy, it is critical that we keep visitation to Florida, and the revenue it generates, healthy and robust,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in a press release.

Visit Florida Signs Off On Budget Cuts

May 16, 2019

Faced with a “prove-it” year to state lawmakers, the board of Florida’s tourism-marketing arm on Wednesday approved a 30 percent payroll cut.

A reluctant Visit Florida Board of Directors agreed to slash payroll by $3.65 million, and strategic marketing by $17.8 million, with an acknowledgement the agency must do a better job of selling itself to lawmakers, particularly in the House, which sought to eliminate the public-private agency during this year’s legislative session.

Visit Florida survived in the session -- but took a 34 percent funding cut.

@pitbull / Twitter

Legislative budget negotiators have reached a deal to extend the life of the Visit Florida tourism agency, which had been set to expire in October. 

Florida’s tourism and marketing agency could be going away if the Florida House has its way. It comes as tourism remains the state’s dominant industry, and the state continues recovering from toxic algae blooms and hurricanes. 

The tourism industry pushed Wednesday to keep the doors open at the state’s tourism-marketing agency as House and Senate budget committees advanced competing spending plans for next year.

For years the Florida legislature has funded Visit Florida – a group charged with advertising and marketing tourism for the state. It works overseas, and around the country and also keeps track of the state’s tourism number. Now the agency is set to dissolve in October unless the legislature decides to keep it going.

But both chambers are at odds on whether it’s needed.

Twitter

Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis on Friday named an ardent opponent of Medicaid expansion to lead the state Agency for Health Care Administration and backed former state Sen. Dana Young to lead the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida.

Visit Florida Is Looking For A New Leader

Jan 3, 2019

Visit Florida board members will hold a conference call in early January to discuss replacing the tourism-promotion agency’s president and CEO, who will move to the state Department of Economic Opportunity under Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.

The state’s tourism-marketing arm wants to send a message to potential visitors: Hurricane damage and fish-killing red tide don’t cover all of the Sunshine State.

Tourists at Clearwater Beach.
WUSF Public Media

Florida’s tourism arm is touting marketing efforts that attracted an increase in travelers from America’s northern neighbor, less than a year after admitting the state had taken its Canadian visitors for granted.

Visit Florida Facebook page

Just months after seeing the budget for the state tourism marketing agency cut to $75 million amid a cantankerous political fight, Gov. Rick Scott is asking again for a major boost.

Hurricane Irma’s state-engulfing radar signature and widespread damage will be a hard image to shake, but tourism experts say Florida’s biggest industry will rebound.

Gov. Rick Scott wants to do away with bonuses for employees at the state's tourism and business-recruitment agencies, at least for now.

After fighting with the Legislature earlier this year to keep the agencies funded, Scott on Thursday rejected the bonuses “at this time.”

Scott sent a letter to members of the boards of directors at Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida outlining his opposition to the employee rewards.

Visit Florida Facebook page

Florida's tourism marketing agency paid nearly $441,000 in employee bonuses this summer despite months of scrutiny from legislators over spending.

Florida Aquarium

Governor Rick Scott was in Tampa Tuesday to unveil Florida's latest tourism numbers and he used the Florida Aquarium as the backdrop to his announcement.

Scott said an estimated 60.7 million tourists came to Florida during the first six months of the year. That's a 4.1 percent increase over the same time period in 2016.

Mary Shedden / WUSF Public Media

Tourism brought in an estimated $109 billion a year to Florida at last count. This week on Florida Matters we’re taking a look at the current state of Florida’s number one industry.


Visit Florida Facebook page

This week on Florida Matters we're talking about the latest in tourism. The state's number one industry was at the center of a battle during this past legislative session.


Visit Florida's Vice President Steps Down

Jun 29, 2017

Vice President of Florida’s tourism agency, Alfredo Gonzalez is stepping down. Spokesman Stephen Lawson says Visit Florida’s current President, Ken Lawson will lead the organization forward.

Despite some early hiccups, Florida’s Republican legislative leaders are agreeing to a handful of the governor’s priorities.  But the House and Senate had to secure wins of their own in last week’s special session before heading home.

‘Stand Your Ground’ Among Bills Sent To Scott

Jun 6, 2017

The Florida Senate on Monday sent to Gov. Rick Scott the remaining 24 Senate bills passed during the 2017 session, including a major higher-education package and legislation to revamp part of the “stand your ground” self-defense law.

Governor Rick Scott is catching some serious heat for shooting a Visit Florida ad in a Washington, D.C. studio.

Visit Florida is fighting for economic survival the only way it knows how, through a marketing campaign.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, widely considered a GOP gubernatorial frontrunner, is warning Florida lawmakers not to scale back marketing efforts.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is now calling for $100 million dollars in tourism money—almost 25 percent more than he outlined in his spending plan early this year.  

House Speaker Richard Corcoran got his bills, and he got enough Democrats to build a veto-proof majority.  The lower chamber has approved legislation to scale back Visit Florida and eliminate Enterprise Florida.

It appears a one million dollar contract could cost Visit Florida much, much more.  The House is moving forward with a plan to cut the agency’s funding by two thirds and establish more stringent oversight.

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