Florida governor Rick Scott has given a pessimistic outlook for his state’s tourism figures for the rest of the year on the back of proposed cuts to the state’s tourism board budget.
A major effort in the first quarter leading to record tourism figures of 31.1m visitors looks set to be wasted.
“It is disappointing that the Florida Legislature made a shortsighted decision to jeopardise the growth of our tourism industry and the 1.4m jobs that rely on it by cutting funding to Visit Florida by 67%,” said Scott, speaking in Miami on the release of the Sunshine State’s Q1 results. Although the new figures represented a 2.5% uplift over the same period in 2016, Scott said surpassing the 2016 full-year total of 113m would be a tall order.
Since state legislators voted to slash funding for Visit Florida, Scott has pulled back from vetoing the decision, and said: “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. In business, you would never stop marketing when you start to see great results. Instead of decimating funding to Visit Florida, we should be investing in tourism marketing so we can continue to bring record visitors to our state.”
Visit Florida president and CEO Ken Lawson added his voice to the debate, saying: “Our organisation is going to have to make tough decisions in the coming weeks and will not be able to compete with destinations like California and Texas.
“We will strive every day so Florida does not become another case study like other states who lost billions of dollars in revenue due to cutting tourism marketing dollars,” Lawson said.
Lawson added that funding Visit Florida at the level proposed in the Legislature’s budget bill would reduce the number of people visiting state by about 30m a year, a 29% reduction in the state’s market share.
“Every 10% loss in overall visitation puts 150,000 Florida jobs at risk,” he told the lawmakers.