Florida on course to attract 120 million visitors in 2017

Filed under: Business,Florida Events,Florida News |

Florida Governor's Conference, Hollywood, Florida, 28th - 30th August 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Tourism professionals from all over Florida convened earlier this week for the 50th Florida Governor’s Conference that was held in Hollywood, Florida. Visit Florida’s President and CEO Ken Lawson (pictured above) announced that the Sunshine State had enjoyed record visitor arrivals during the first half of 2017 as over 60 million visitors have visited for the first six months of the year.

The year has been a troubled one for Visit Florida and this year’s conference was a little more low key than past events that have seen notable performances by folks like Pit Bull. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran took exception to a deal Visit Florida did with the popular rap singer and ever since the tourism industry has been rocked on its heels as it fought against a cut to its $76 million budget. Corcoran’s main beef with the agency has been a perceived lack of transparency over various marketing deals that were signed in past years and as a result, he sought to drastically cut back the money that was on offer to Visit Florida.

In June, the Florida Legislature approved a $76 million budget for fiscal 2018 after a three-day special session in the Florida House and Senate. That funding level is the same as fiscal 2017, although the governor had initially proposed a $100 million budget.

Florida Governor's Conference, Hollywood, Florida, 28th - 30th August 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Over the last few days hundreds of tourism leaders came together for pep talks by Florida Governor Rick Scott (pictured above left) and to discuss new tactics for wooing more visitors despite the political climate. During the conference, Governor Scott received a distinguished leadership award from the U.S. Travel Association in appreciation for his work on travel and tourism promotion.

In remarks at the Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow (pictured above right) highlighted Governor Scott’s successful efforts to attract more visitors to Florida amid challenges that have faced the state.

“Throughout his term, Governor Scott has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to travel as a critical pillar of the economy and jobs base in the Sunshine State,” said Dow. “Faced with numerous natural and man-made challenges, he realized the importance of sending a message of welcome both domestically and internationally, reminding both domestic and international travelers of all that Florida has to offer visitors.”

“In particular, Governor Scott’s efforts to protect VISIT FLORIDA’s funding from misguided political challenges have paid dividends for the state. In 2016, Florida enjoyed a record of nearly 113 million visitors. More importantly, the dollars those visitors spent during their trips supported 1.4 million jobs for Florida workers, making the state one of America’s strongest examples of the economic power of travel.

“The travel industry is very proud of all that Governor Scott has been able to accomplish during his years in office. Other states should be as fortunate to have such a travel champion in the top job.”

“It was an honor to accept this award on behalf of the many Florida families and businesses that support our growing tourism industry,” said Governor Scott in a statement. “Tourism is a major job creator and economic engine for our state, and we will continue to work each day to market Florida and meet our goal of welcoming 120 million visitors this year.”

As of June, the state was half-way to achieving that goal with 60.7 million visitors, a 4.1 percent increase from the same six-month period of 2016, according to preliminary data from Visit Florida.

“What do we have to do to keep this [momentum] going? ” Scott asked. “We have to keep marketing our state.”

When he took the job, the state’s tourism budget was $25 million and the state consistently attracted about 80 million tourists annually. Now, with a $76 million budget that narrowly avoided drastic cuts by the Legislature for fiscal 2018, Florida hopes to draw 120 million tourists.

“I don’t want to go back to 80 million tourists,” said Scott, as he urged attendees to lobby their lawmakers to stave off possible future cuts.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to be as transparent as we can,” Scott cautioned. “We’ve got to tell everybody how we’re spending the money… if we do that we’re going to continue to be able to fund Visit Florida … grow more tourists, which will mean more jobs. We’ve added 1.4 million jobs [in six and a half years] and you’ve been a big part of it.”

It remains to be seen what happens in the future and whether House Speaker Corcoran makes a run for Governor as is widely rumored. One thing is for sure, the tourism industry isn’t going to take things lying down as they fight to protect their market from rivals like Las Vegas and California.

Fact Check:

Florida only has 66,000 people on unemployment benefits.
Florida has 71,000 people on welfare benefits.
350,000 people move to Florida each year.
There are currently 250,000 job openings in the State.
1.4 million are employed in the tourism industry.
Six times as many people visit Florida as live in it.

 

More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

 

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