David Downing, the president and CEO of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, has resigned from his post. In a release, Downing said "he will be moving to private enterprise" and will "assume a partnership stake in a Tampa Bay area-based hospitality development enterprise." His last day at the CVB is Feb. 1.
The move comes after the Tampa Bay Times requested hundreds of pages of records related to his travels and the way he operates the CVB, including more than $300,000 travel and entertainment charges since 2014, when Downing was promoted to the top post at the bureau. According to press reports, he had not been providing any reports to the Pinellas County Commission or Tourist Development Council about the expenditures, even though he was directed to start compiling annual reports to inform the public in 2018.
The Times reports that following an interview with Downing and two other county officials last week, county administrator Barry Burton said he planned to increase oversight on Downing's travels and vacation hours. Burton told the paper that county commissioners also requested "more details about the money Downing has passed out to small groups that hold events in the county."
Under Downing's leadership, tourist development tax collected in Pinellas County reached nearly $60 million in 2018, making the region one the highest-grossing tourism destinations in Florida. "I am honored to have been part of a Visit St Pete/Clearwater team that brought tourism marketing to new heights over the last 12 years," Downing said. "Tourism is the number-one economic generator in Pinellas County, employing some 104,000 residents with an annual total economic impact of about $11 billion, and our marketing strategy was a driving force in the prosperity of our community."
M&C reached out yesterday to Visit St. Pete/Clearwater for comment; at press time, the CVB had not responded.