Statement by Gil Langley, Chairman of Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations regarding the 2017 legislative session
“Along with the 1.4 million Floridians employed by the tourism industry, I am extremely disappointed in the outcome of the 2017 Legislative Session. A $25 million budget for tourism marketing, coupled with a wealth of bureaucratic red tape, hinders VISIT FLORIDA’s ability to do its job. With only $25 million dedicated to promoting our state, there’s no way Florida can stay on the same playing field as states like California. Not to mention, VISIT FLORIDA’s efforts are what keeps tourists from flying over Florida to Mexico, the Bahamas and now Cuba.
Lawmakers in Tallahassee neglected to consider the facts – state and local tourism promotion is the only reason Florida has been able to maintain its status as a top destination in the increasingly competitive industry. Thanks to tourism, Florida brought in $108.8 billion in tourism-related spending in the last fiscal year. Unfortunately, the Sunshine State’s future does not look as bright. With a 5 percent tourism downturn, our state will lose more than $324 million in sales tax revenue and 70,000 jobs. Furthermore, the funding reduction will have a disproportionate impact on small rural counties throughout the state – without the resources to market themselves, many of Florida’s hidden gems will experience economic harm.
Other states like Colorado, Washington and Pennsylvania serve as a warning of what’s to come. We’ve seen this same scenario play out in other states, and the end result is always the same: state revenue goes down, people lose their jobs and that state’s market share goes down.
Although a 67 percent funding reduction and a new stringent structure are enormous setbacks for our industry, we will continue to advocate for tourism promotion in the months leading up to the 2018 Session. As Legislators watch while jobs are lost, small businesses are harmed, and tax revenue is diminished, I hope they will rectify their mistake next year.”