Rick Scott Wants $100 Million to Promote Florida
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott will seek $100 million to help bring 100 million visitors a year to the Sunshine State.
Scott announced Friday that he intends to ask the Legislature for the record amount of funding for Visit Florida, the state's tourism-promotion arm, in the 2014 budget.
Legislative budget leaders are taking a cautious approach to the proposal.
The proposal is a jump of $25 million from what Scott sought last year and more than $35 million above what the Legislature eventually gave the agency for the current 2013-14 budget year.
The boost in funding would allow Visit Florida to expand its seasonal, city-specific targeted advertising to a year-round national campaign and would allow it to further target areas such as the United Kingdom and Brazil that already send large numbers of tourists to Florida.
During a morning appearance on an Orlando television station, Scott said marketing is "how we grow our economy."
"All we have to do now is basically call up North and ask what the temperature is," Scott said. "Other times, the more you put yourself in front of people, talk about our beaches, our weather, our attractions, our parks … so we just market ourselves more. We can get a lot more tourists in our state."
And, of course, Scott said that with more tourists would come the creation of more jobs.
The funding request will be included in his annual budget request, which will be sent to the Legislature before the 2014 session starts in March.
Scott's office released a series of supportive quotes from lawmakers, including Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, who will help oversee the economic-development budget process in their respective chambers. However, that doesn't mean the funding request will have an easy journey through the Legislature.
Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who heads the powerful Appropriations Committee, called the proposal "bold" and said the Senate will give it great consideration. But he added that lawmakers will have to determine if the recent funding increases to Visit Florida are why the state has seen tourism numbers increase.
"While tourism has increased, is this a correlation or causation?" Negron said. "That's something we'll have to analyze as part of the committee process."
Rep. Seth McKeel, a Lakeland Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said in a release that the proposal will be "thoughtfully considered."
"Tourism is certainly an important industry in our state," McKeel said. "However, each year during the legislative budget process we must look at all of the state's priorities and determine how to best allocate our available funds statewide."
The Legislature approved $63.5 million for Visit Florida during the 2013 session, a $9.5 million increase from the prior year.
Meanwhile, the state is expected to be close to 94 million visitors for 2013, which would easily break the 2012 record of 91.4 million visitors.
Through the first three-quarters of 2013, the state had attracted an estimated 72.5 million tourists.
With the $100 million proposal, Visit Florida President and CEO Will Seccombe said the governor is further challenging Visit Florida and the tourism industry to reach 100 million visitors.
"We're on pace for a third consecutive record year of tourism," Seccombe said. "If you're on that kind of a pace, there are two things you can do: You can sit back and enjoy the ride or you can double down and redouble your efforts to build on that momentum. There is no question that is what the governor has done."
The state has already started to market itself as a year-round destination rather than just a warm-weather winter playground. Also, while focusing on attracting more people from traditional locales -- New York, Boston, Atlanta and Chicago -- ads have increased in markets west of the Mississippi and overseas.
The additional money would expand on both domestic and international advertising and include efforts to encourage passenger air carriers to increase international flights to the Sunshine State, Seccombe said.
Of Florida's 2012 visitors, 13.8 million were international travelers.
The state money is in addition to $110.9 million in private contributions to Visit Florida.