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Columns

One More Plea to Spare Visit Florida

February 17, 2017 - 6:00am

Speaker Richard Corcoran and the Florida House are going to do what they've got to do, I know that. And, Lord knows, I like a lot of what they do. But kill Visit Florida? Please reconsider, ladies and gentlemen.

Forgive me if I repeat what I've said before, but I can't help myself: Florida needs its tourism promotion arm muscling up now more than ever.

On Thursday I heard from U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. I expect every news outlet in Florida did, too. He wanted us to know what Gov. Rick Scott wants the Legislature to know -- that Visit Florida has value like nobody's business.

"This marks the sixth straight year of tourism growth for Florida, and I would like to give credit where credit is due: to the hard-working people of Florida's travel and hospitality sectors, and particularly to VISIT FLORIDA and its supporters," wrote Florida resident Dow. Really, it was a press release congratulating Florida on a record near-113 million visits to the state in 2016.

Actually, I didn't mind what it was. Gushy press release? Of course. But facts are facts, no matter how they come to you. Say what you like, Dow and the USTA know what they're talking about. Nobody I know watches tourism with a keener eye in all 50 states.

"Florida faced a multitude of headwinds last year, including natural disasters, the Zika virus outbreak and the tragic nightclub attack in Orlando," Dow reminded us. "Through it all, the destination marketing efforts of VISIT FLORIDA kept visitors aware of all the state has to offer -- and preserved the livelihoods of the 1.4 million Floridians whose jobs depend on a healthy tourism market."

Dow then made his pitch to keep legislators thinking smart.

"Despite these obvious benefits," he continued, "some Florida policymakers are questioning the state's budgetary commitment to tourism promotion. Examples abound of what a risky experiment this is: for instance, when Colorado eliminated its state tourism office in the 1990s, it slipped from the top U.S. summer resort destination to 17th place within one year. Colorado is still, to this day, working to recover its national market share."

No wonder the Rocky Mountain State approved recreational marijuana.

"Those who argue that 'people will come to Florida no matter what' are willfully choosing to ignore a very obvious reality," he said. "Cutting or eliminating Florida's public travel promotion funding is a gift to competing destinations like California -- which, I might add, has doubled its state tourism marketing budget over the last few years and is already working to lure visitors away from Florida's beaches to California's. Given the state's very significant challenges last year, it is simply not credible to suggest this record level of visitation would have happened without the efforts of VISIT FLORIDA.

"From my home in St. Pete to Tallahassee and across the state and country, I constantly point out that strong state tourism budgets mean strong communities,  and Florida is among the strongest examples of these investments at work.

"I congratulate Governor Rick Scott, the VISIT FLORIDA team and tourism partners large and small for achieving record visitation last year, and sincerely hope state lawmakers notice these results of robust public funding for destination marketing."

It can't be easy for Dow -- living in, and loving, the Sunshine State as he does -- watching legislators scramble to starve its No. 1 golden goose. I don't know what it is about us Republicans. We get cocky, I think. We push the envelope, we mess with success. I don't know if that's arrogant or just part of our GOP DNA.

My dad -- a good and committed Republican all his life -- told me about 50 years ago the thing that frustrated him most about Republicans was "they can't stop tinkering ... soon as they get a Rolex, they want to take it apart." Why? I asked him. "So they can pretend they're God and prove they're better than their creations,"  he told me.

Since then, I've seen proof of that a dozen times over. Pretty smart, my dad. But I really hope I don't see his theory borne out during the 2017 Florida legislative session. Please don't take the Rolex apart this time.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


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Comments

FYI, as a senior on a small pension and S.S, we care not to support and pay taxes to support Visit FL or Enterprise FL. Enough is enough with our taxes to accommodate corporations in or associated with tourism nor do we care to support corporations with subsidies/incentives thinking of Enterprise FL. At my age, I can remember once upon a time the People's taxes were used to support essentials as funding or better funding our police/fire departments, taking care of our roadways and NEEDS like that. Why nowadays is some politicians wanting to use our taxes to e.g. advertise and promote tourism or to entice corporations to move here. Also, why has some politicians over the years been okay with using millions of our state taxes to subsidize requesting city's hosting a pro rich sports team helping to build new fancy and costly stadium or to rehab some in this state? Yes, think many everyday taxpayers are not happy with what some have called a form of corp. welfare. The bottom , please use our Florida taxes for statewide NEEDS and let the private sector corporations do what it should do for itself. That is our opinion.

Another paid for article supporting corporate welfare to corporations. Yes, without $250 million to give away, hold over the top parties, create Pit Bull style videos, Florida the land of sun shine and sometimes blue water, will have zero chance of bringing in corporations. Please...stop.

The argument is not entirely sound. I say, show me the numbers, and don't point out the record tourism numbers. They were already headed that way. Every year the economy is strong we have broken a record, check it out for yourself... I'm talking show how the total dollars spent have returned directly through those marketing efforts. You cannot. The reason business and tourism loves Visit Florida is we are doing their advertising for them. We are subsidizing their pay checks, and that is wrong! We have Disney, Sea World, Busch, AI, sports, horses, dogs, gambling etc. etc. Each major city and county has sports and tourism boards. They were thrilled because they didn't have to spend as much money because our state tax dollars were picking up the tab. People will come to Florida, beaches, theme parks, parks, water, etc. It is the return on investment that is not there and the unchecked spending that cannot be allowed to continue. Reagan was right back then and now, let the market dictate the pace. The businesses in FL will not suffer. They will advertise. Our tax dollars should not be doing it for them...classic.

Those of you who don’t work in the industry from the “buyer” side don’t realize how important Visit Florida is. I am a co chair with a National Convention this coming summer in Orlando. Everyone says “Well, you’re going to come anyway, why should Florida spend the money? Why should we give your organization ‘corporate welfare’?” We were up against two other locations for the 2017 Convention. We were up against Kansas City, MO and Melbourne, Australia. Through the efforts of Visit Orlando and Visit Florida we won the bidding war. The two agencies spent money by hiring staff and promoting the state and location. The hotels we stayed at with our national staff picked up the tab for our rooms and meals. No one paid those hotels or reimbursed them for what it cost for our rooms. You’re thinking, “Come on, Kansas City? Of course, you’re coming to Orlando.” Actually, Kansas City was the leading contender. We were third. Based on the site visits by our national organization we won the bid. Why? Because Visit Florida and Visit Orlando went all out to promote the state and Central Florida. Those airlines that tout "Come to Florida!!!" are also touting "Come to every damn place we fly around the world!!!". What are we receiving? Let’s see, a welcome sign over International Drive. Welcome signs at the Orlando airport. A welcome reception for our leadership. 12 complimentary airport transfers (paid by Mears). 4 car rentals for a week (paid by Hertz). Complimentary hotel rooms (paid by the hotel). So, where’s the “corporate welfare”? Can someone tell me? We certainly didn’t get any. Yeah, people such as couples, friends and families come here for vacations. And Visit Florida doesn’t ignore them either. But the convention business is where Visit Florida shines and is needed. Florida is an option, nothing more. If you don't believe it, check out New York, Las Vegas, LA, Chicago, Dallas, Houston or any other place on the map.

WHAT UTTER BULLCRAP ! People who need your "so-called" promotion "guidance" are too stupid to allow into our surf !

So right, Dan. Tourism is our leading industry. We have to protect it and all those Floridians jobs. There is nothing corporate welfare about it. Killing Visit Florida would be a bad business decision.

"Visit Florida"?!?... That's like telling people living in the Northern "cold climates": "Throw away all your 'Winter Clothes',..."global warming" will be sufficient warmth for you ! AND YOU want to PAY OUR TAXES for "advertising" 'common-sense' to tell those poor freezing souls "it's warm & entertaining in Florida ?!?!?!?... ARE YOU NUTS????? EVERY Airline company that 'touches down' anywhere in Florida (and any other mode of transportation that "motors down" South) SCREAMS THAT MESSAGE to the country ( and ALL of that is motivated EVERY year by "the "Automobile Association of America"(AAA); (AACanada); (AAEurope) etc,. etc., etc.), and Advertising Agencies in EVERY corner of this country !!!!! Florida Legislature: STOP SPENDING OUT TAXES NEEDLESSLY AND FRIVOLOUSLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(THE WORD IS ALREADY OUT, REDUNDENTLY !)

C Breeze, you got it right! Let the Hoteliers and airlines advertise for themselves, STOP using public funds for corporate benefit. It is pathetic how the travel business had been destroyed, but I realize it was in on taking public funds for its benefit. PPP are an evil that must be stopped. These tourist development schemes and their people get freebies too on the backs of taxpayers. Enough. People should realize that WE the People of Florida Pay BIG TIME at restaurants, for rooms and those rate hikes at snowbird time. We live here , pay for the sand and the roads , we pay for more than our share. We pay for all the maintenance for Stadiums, bs Horridwood characters and stupid movies , bringing in entertainment from abroad. What ever happened to auditions and people self promoting? Enough wasting our money. We even pay to park at the beaches we paid for! When was the last time you tried to o to the beach during peak season? Forgetaboutit. We have to take our counties back! Time to see how Florida does without the goodies for the "partners." Show us what the truth is about ROI. Draft Richard Corcoran for Governor! Doing a great job so far Richard!

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