For more than 22 years, VISIT FLORIDA has operated as the marketing organization for the Sunshine State, attracting visitors from around the United States as well as travelers from other countries. Their efforts have proven to effectively draw in crowds from around the world. Year after year, we continue to see record-setting numbers of tourists coming for our beautiful beaches, awesome attractions and endless opportunities for adventure. In fact, last year, thanks to the work of the VISIT FLORIDA team, we had yet another record of 126.1 million visitors. These guests have a tremendous impact on the state’s economy and provide jobs for 1.4 million Floridians who work in hospitality.
VISIT FLORIDA’s carefully executed marketing plan for the state works well, and we see that in the steady increase in annual visitors. But there is another critical function of VISIT FLORIDA that perhaps many don’t know. VISIT FLORIDA works with local businesses and tourism councils to help communities market themselves with a variety of grant programs ranging from advertising matches to disaster recovery marketing. Because of VISIT FLORIDA efforts and grants, bed taxes in rural counties have grown nearly 50 percent faster than those in urban counties since 2012. Our small towns and cities benefit greatly from VISIT FLORIDA marketing assistance, and we must continue to support them by fully funding VISIT FLORIDA. However, the organization will sunset on October 1 unless our legislators choose to act.
Gov. DeSantis recognizes the value of VISIT FLORIDA and has recommended it be funded at its current level of $76 million, and we wholeheartedly agree. This investment is a wise one as the Legislature’s Chief Economist Amy Baker has noted that VISIT FLORIDA returns $2.51 to taxpayers for each dollar spent. I strongly urge our Senate to support Florida’s economy and jobs by ensuring VISIT FLORIDA does not sunset.
News release from Carol B. Dover, CEO & President of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association