The Florida Legislature - particularly the House of Representatives - has launched a full-on assault on Florida's tourism industry by attempting to dissolve VISIT FLORIDA. Unfortunately, the truth that the facts support the power of tourism marketing doesn't seem to matter. Our battle is with political ideology that is set to sacrifice the future of Florida's economic success by spending tourism marketing dollars on projects rather than investing those dollars and doubling those dollars every year.
Here's the situation...
Issue #1 - VISIT FLORIDA
The Florida Senate has passed SB 362
(Senator Ed Hooper, Palm Harbor) to reauthorize VISIT FLORIDA for 8 more years. In addition, the Senate's version of the budget fully funds VISIT FLORIDA at $52.5 million.
Lead by Speaker Jose Oliva (Hialeah), the Florida House of Representatives has taken a firm stand against VISIT FLORIDA evidenced by the fact that HB 213
(Rep. Mel Ponder, Fort Walton Beach) has not been allowed to be heard or debated despite the growing list of co-sponsors. In addition, the House's version of the budget has no funding for VISIT FLORIDA.
While many of your Representatives have told our members "off the record" that they disagree with the Speaker's assessment of VISIT FLORIDA's efficacy, there is little to no interest in crossing one of the three most powerful members of state government.
Issue #2 - Expanded Uses of your Country's Tourism Development Taxes
In what appears to be another attack on Florida tourism, the House Ways and Means Committee considered an expansive tax package this week that includes a provision to siphon tourist tax dollars away from tourism marketing as statute intends and instead spend those dollars on water quality issues. While one can't deny the need for addressing water quality, spending the very dollars that are used to generate even more tax income seems counterproductive.
No such plan currently exists in the Senate.
With only four weeks left in the 2020 Legislative Session, the Florida House has doubled down on its opposition to tourism marketing both at the state and local level. Florida is at a crossroads and lawmakers will soon decide if Florida will remain as a viable player in international tourism destination marketing or subjugate our state to the same disastrous effects
experienced by other destinations who have made this mistake.
You're only one voice - what can you do?...
Contact 2 people - your Senator and your Representative.
First, thank your Senator
for their support of tourism marketing and supporting our efforts to grow Florida's economy.
Next, contact your Representative now
. Call them, email them, Tweet and Facebook message them. Ask them to stand up for Florida, for tourism, for our state's future. Request they not only support HB 213 - but Co-Sponsor HB 213
. This will be a public demonstration of their support for you, your business and Florida tourism. So far, in addition to primary sponsor Representative Ponder, these heroic Representatives have also signed onto the bill as Co-sponsors - Representatives Loranne Ausley (Tallahassee), Javier E. Fernández (Coral Gables), Delores Hogan Johnson (Fort Pierce), Cindy Polo (Hialeah), David Santiago (Deltona), Charlie Stone (Ocala), and Jennifer Necole Webb (St. Petersburg). They deserve our thanks.
Ask them not to be bullied by their Speaker. Request the House consider HB 213 AND fully fund VISIT FLORIDA.
Ask them to preserve the intent of the tourism development tax - to generate MORE visitors and MORE tax dollars to be used for essential needs in our state.
Hold your Representative accountable to YOU. You elected them - they work for YOU.
Share this message with your tourism colleagues, your employees, and your friends. Our jobs and our state's vitality depend on a strong economy.