The Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce's Government Affairs Committee is keeping close tabs on the legislative workings in Tallahassee. As those in the tourism industry call for the Florida House and Senate to fully fund the state's tourism-marketing agency, Visit Florida, they're also warning that tourism has a broad effect on numerous industries across our state.
Ina Lee, President of TravelHost Fort Lauderdale, says it's critical that VISIT Florida be funded. She cautioned against the belief that larger companies have the big dollars to spend on marketing and attracting tourists to Florida. Lee mentioned major hotels that depend on Visit Florida's advertising power.
Right now, the Florida Senate Senate has proposed about $52 million for Visit Florida. That is short of the $76 million provided to the agency during the current year -- an amount that Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed to continue.
Under the House proposal, Visit Florida would get $19 million, which would cover the tourism agency through October 1, 2019. That is when the agency is scheduled to be “sunset” unless it is reauthorized.
Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young, a former state lawmaker, argued the agency has a $2.15 return on investment for every dollar spent, was responsible for a record 126 million tourists visiting Florida last year and has been the first line in countering negative media coverage of hurricanes and toxic algae outbreaks.
Following discussion, during a meeting in the Chamber's Board Room, the Government Affairs Committee passed two motions in connection to Visit Florida. The committee passed a motion calling for the Chamber to support reauthorizing the agency, so that it doesn't sunset. The other motion called for the Chamber to support at least $76 million worth of funding for Visit Florida.
Both motions will now be heard by the Chamber's Board of Directors, which will have the final say during their next meeting in late April.
Also discussed, during this week's Government Affairs Committee meeting is the ongoing battle to fund Enterprise Florida, a public-private economic development agency. As the case with Visit Florida, the House intends to effectively zero out the agency. Supporters of Enterprise Florida say the agency helps level the playing field for cities and counties, when it comes to economic development. Jamal Sowell, head of Enterprise Florida, says without the agency he directs, municipalities would be left on their own to compete with other states in driving economic development.