For Visit Florida, it’s all about quality, not quantity when it comes to tourists in Florida.
“We also understand that at the end of the day it’s all about yield,” said Nelson Mongiovi, Visit Florida’s interim chief marketing officer. “We would certainly rather have 80 million of the right visitors in the state versus 120 million of the wrong ones, that aren’t spending money and are just applying pressure on infrastructure.”
While they are cautious about it, the Visit Florida goal is still more than 120 million visitors before the end of the calendar year.
The tourism agency is cautious because concerns about President Donald Trump are being voiced by some leaders in the tourism industry in Florida and the impact his administration may have on travel.
“I just don’t know how much of the international evaluation is anecdotal or how much of it real,” Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson said. “We’ve heard Trump slump. We’ve heard Trump bump. I’ll tell you the only true data I’ve seen to date in April was U.S. visitation was actually up 4 percent and we’re very eager to see what that translates into as far as Florida’s proportional share.”
Tampa restaurant owner and Visit Florida’s Vice Chairwoman Maryann Ferenc suggested the board should consider a new goal based on the economic impact of tourism on the state instead of the actual number of visitors.
“If we were budgeting for our own businesses, we would look at the things that have happened in this year, both in terms of the state of Florida as well as we know that we’re seeing potential to an international drop in business. We’ve seen that at the international shows that we’ve gone to. It’s a variable that we really have not a lot of control over and we’re going to suffer from” Ferenc said.
According to the governor’s office, more than 31 million visitors came to Florida in the first three months of the year, setting a record as the highest amount of tourists of any quarter in state history.
Those numbers may have helped Governor Rick Scott fight for the Visit Florida budget which was slashed by the House during the regular 2017 session. The effort to slash the Visit Florida budget was led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran who argued the lack of transparency for the tourism agency was a great concern for all of Florida.
“With full funding of $76 million and important accountability and transparency measures in place, this legislation puts Visit Florida on the right track to continue supporting Florida jobs and attracting record numbers of visitors to our state,” Scott said via a press release.