Recent debate in Tallahassee has left many in the business community scratching our heads. That’s because the Florida House of Representatives is undertaking a dangerous exercise to shutter VISIT FLORIDA and end Florida’s tourism marketing efforts. Gambling with Florida’s number one economic engine is a bad bet that jeopardizes more than 1.4 million jobs as well as Florida’s income tax free status.
Almost every state in the nation and every developed tourism destination in the entire world markets its tourism product. Yet the Florida House believes that the Sunshine State – the number one tourism destination in the world – should stop. Instead, lawmakers in the House are poised to allow VISIT FLORIDA to disappear on October 1, 2019.
This is an irresponsible move. When it comes to return on investment, VISIT FLORIDA has routinely demonstrated the value of tourism marketing. Just last month, they announced Florida’s eighth consecutive record year for visitation with 126.1 million people traveling to Florida. Strong visitation numbers like these help to ensure hotels remain occupied, restaurants stay full, and most importantly, that our taxes are being paid with money from outside of the state through sales tax.
According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, visitors to Florida contribute more than $12 billion in state and local tax revenue annually. And, every 76 visitors to Florida creates one new job.
Eliminating VISIT FLORIDA means Florida will lose business, market share and tax dollars to competing destinations. Look no further than Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania to see how their states were impacted when tourism marketing investments were cut.
More importantly, decreases in visits to Florida will also mean lost jobs. Even a two percent drop in Florida’s visitor spending would cost the state 18,000 jobs, nearly $500 million in payroll associated with those jobs, and over $130 million in state and local tax revenue. In communities impacted by hurricanes, red tide and other natural disasters, it’s absolutely vital that VISIT FLORIDA help ensure the world knows that Florida is open for business.
Debra Harvey is the Chief Operating Officer for Florida-based Ron Jon Surf Shop, which depends on tourists from around the world to visit their stores selling surf, beach and active lifestyle equipment, apparel and merchandise.