In a recent piece shared with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Virginia Haley, 2020 VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors Chair and Destinations Florida member, provides further evidence of why tourism promotion is crucial to our state’s success and why VISIT FLORIDA must be fully funded and reauthorized.
In the piece, Haley shares her comments given at the annual Florida Tourism Forum and outlines the vital connection that local Destination Marketing Organizations and VISIT FLORIDA have.
“Throughout our state, tourism is the building block that keeps communities healthy and prosperous and helps communities to improve and grow. Tourism is a key component in a community’s place branding.”
Haley also addresses the common misconception that visitors will come to Florida, regardless of any marketing efforts.
“This complacency of hoping that consumers will discover Florida on their own is a dangerous mindset that will deliver Florida’s potential visitors and market share to California, New York, Georgia and others.”
The Florida Legislature did not fully fund or reauthorize VISIT FLORIDA during the 2018 Legislative Session but kept the private-public partnership alive for future review. Destinations Florida looks forward to working with Florida leaders to educate them on the value that tourism brings to Florida and will continue to fight for VISIT FLORIDA to be fully funded and reauthorized.
You can read the full text of the piece below:
Comments to state leaders about tourism resonate in Sarasota County
As the 2020 Visit Florida Board of Directors Chair, I was privileged to speak at the Chairman’s Dinner at the annual Florida Tourism Forum this past November. The event brings together tourism industry professionals, advertising agencies, travel experts and state leaders to explore the latest trends and opportunities for the industry.
With a captive audience that relies so heavily on the future of Visit Florida, I knew whatever I said had to truly mean something. And, with the perspective I’ve gained as the Chair of Visit Florida, I had to share what being on the front lines of the fight for reauthorization has further validated for me: Each person in the room does something that matters; and their well-being depends on us all winning this fight.
Visit Florida’s challenge for reauthorization and full funding is daunting, but I’m hopeful those in power will do what’s right. And, while the fight may not feel like it’s “ours” to lose in Sarasota County, it isn’t far off.
Really, Visit Florida’s battle serves as a cautionary tale when I think of home and Visit Sarasota County (VSC). I wanted to share my comments from the Chairman’s Dinner with you, our local stakeholders, because without the understanding that tourism matters and that it doesn’t just happen, fighting for funding is a situation VSC could very well experience too.
My comments at the Chairman’s Dinner in Panama City on November 19, 2019:
As Visit Florida Board Chair, I want to express our deepest appreciation to our Governor for stepping in to make sure that Visit Florida was authorized for another year. Also, I am personally honored to have Senate President Bill Galvano join us tonight for the Chairman’s Dinner and for your strong words of support for Visit Florida. Now it is our turn to show our policy leaders just how necessary, indeed vital, Visit Florida is to the citizens of Florida.
We brighten the lives of all – think of the countless unforgettable Florida family vacations. More so, we brighten the lives of Floridians who get to enjoy a better quality of life thanks to tourism and the work that we do to market our state. We brighten the lives of individuals and communities through the power of tourism.
Let’s look at some of those Floridians:
- The young undergrad at the University of Florida who was the first in his family to attend college and is working part time as night auditor at a hotel, giving him the income and flexibility he needs to balance his classes and studies. He is now a high school assistant principal who helped his school move from a B to an A this past spring.
- There is the family that moved to Florida to escape the depressing winters up north where the wife finds a fantastic position as a director of communications in a local attraction. She becomes a leader in her community’s public relations organizations and provides scholarships for local graduates.
- The young woman who just earned a sports scholarship to attend college thanks to the training and experiences she gained because her community invested a portion of its tourism development tax into a new sports facility.
Throughout our state, tourism is the building block that keeps communities healthy and prosperous and helps communities to improve and grow. Tourism is a key component in a community’s place branding.
Whether it is Wynwood’s renaissance with its street art or the lively action along Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, or Florida’s Village by the Sea; to a neglected man-made lake in Sarasota that is now the world’s center for International Rowing; to a revitalized, historic Palafox Street in Pensacola. These are but a few communities that forged strong collaborations to develop their own unique character and is then sustained through the marketing by their local Destination Marketing Organizations and Visit Florida.
It is Visit Florida and its tourism partners who share these stories with the world. After all, you could have the most amazing beach, the liveliest downtown, the best ball field, but someone must tell those stories.
The biggest threat to Florida is a mindset that says “if you build it, they will come” or “everyone wants to come to Florida” or “the big theme parks can do the promotion on their own, they don’t need Visit Florida.” Really? Then why do those same so called “big guys” partner with Visit Florida?
This complacency of hoping that consumers will discover Florida on their own is a dangerous mindset that will deliver Florida’s potential visitors and market share to California, New York, Georgia and others.
I ask you, is there an elected official in a hotly contested race who would slash or eliminate their election campaign? Of course not. We need to help our legislators understand that the competition that faces Florida tourism is just as formidable as a well-funded opponent. We must have an authorized and fully funded Visit Florida to lead a unified industry to victory for Florida’s citizens.
Tourism is much more competitive and consumers, meeting professionals and the travel trade have more destinations to choose from than ever before. Whether you are one of the big theme parks, a convention city or a rural community, your success depends upon Visit Florida leading the way.
Only Visit Florida can tell the story of our state’s vast diversity and help our visitors explore both the tourism hot sports as well as the lesser known corners of our great state. It is Visit Florida, in alignment with its industry partners, that ensures a visitor tastes the vegan pastrami at Alter in Wynwood, an athlete wins a rowing gold medal in Sarasota, downs a Guinness at the Blue Anchor in Delray or savors a FreakShake at Al Fresco in Pensacola.
Virginia Haley is the president of Visit Sarasota County. She can be reached at 941-955-0991 or [email protected].