Session Spotlight: Not Funding VISIT FLORIDA Would Hurt Tourism Promotion and Florida’s Economy
In 1996, the Florida Legislature created the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation, known as VISIT FLORIDA (VF). VF is a public-private partnership that serves as Florida’s statewide destination marketing organization. It is a direct support organization of Enterprise Florida, which is required to contract with VF “to execute tourism promotion and marketing services, functions, and programs for the state.” Over the years, a number of Florida TaxWatch research projects have highlighted the value of VF and shown that continuous, targeted investment in Florida tourism promotion is critical to our state’s economic success. VF has been instrumental in helping tourism recover following disasters and events such as hurricanes, red tide, the Zika virus scare, and the COVID-19 pandemic, dispelling rumors and letting the world know that Florida and its beaches and other attractions were open for business. The pandemic caused a 24.8 percent decrease in tourists. After growth of 38.5 percent in 2022, the number of visitors has surpassed the pre-pandemic peak and is expected to continue to grow, passing the 150 million mark in 2026.
For many years, Florida TaxWatch research has supported investment in the state’s tourism industry. The state has developed a very good tourism promotion model that has proven success. HB 7053 would threaten that model. Although the legislation did not get through its committees, funding for VF is still very much in doubt as budget negotiators have not yet reached agreement. The language in HB 7053 could resurface as a compromise.
To remain competitive and sustain Florida’s share of the U.S. tourism market, Florida must continue to invest in tourism marketing and promotion to make sure that when tourists begin to plan their next vacation, they think first of Florida.