In the year 2018, there are more than 126 million people visited Florida, that marks the eight years in a row this State saw a record number of tourists.
Visitors spent up to more than $115 billion during their stays in Florida, confirming tourism remains the state’s No. 1 industry and supporting about 1.5 million jobs.
Florida has an agency within Enterprise Florida, Inc., – EFI – a non-profit corporation which was created to act as the state’s economic development organization, which serves as a tourism-marketing agency, named Visit Florida.
Visit Florida was created by the Legislature in 1996. It receives an annual allocation from lawmakers and has to be reauthorized every three years. The state Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis want to refund and reauthorize Visit Florida, however, the House, apparently, has other ideas.
In 2017, House Republicans attempted to abolish EFI as well as Visit Florida. The agency was under fire due to issuing questionable contracts, including a $2.875 million contract with Visit Florida Racing – an auto racing team, a $1 million promotion contract for rapper Pitbull, and an $11.6 million deal to sponsor a cooking show which was hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.
After a contentious debate, legislators revised the agency’s reporting requirements such as imposing new rules which dissolved partnerships with local tourism organizations.
Florida Republican Party Chairman Sen. Joe Gruters said that “What Visit Florida does for our economy as challenges come up in all of our local areas, it’s critically important for our success. And when Florida is at its lowest points, they’re there helping prop us back and letting people know we’re back in business.”
Visit Florida is particularly needed these days when the tourism industry of Southwest Florida attempts to recover from its high-publicized bout of red tide and the Panhandle builds out from the devastation of the Hurricane Michael, he also said.