Visit Florida has been granted an extra 9-month lease on life after legislators agreed Monday to fund the state tourism agency through June 30, 2020. Originally set to expire in October without the passing of SB 178, the agency received a $50 million reprieve from Florida House and Senate representatives. That's $26 million lower than Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis requested, but a step up from total extinction.
Not all were keen on the additional support. One of Visit Florida's biggest critics, Speaker José Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, wanted to kill the tourism program outright, claiming the agency is a waste of money with entities like Walt Disney World Resorts and local CVBs already doing their own marketing.
“In a trillion-dollar economy, a few million dollars put toward advertising a few different places cannot possibly have a direct correlation with tourism,” Oliva told reporters after the House floor session last week, according to the Miami Herald.
Oliva told reporters Friday that the governor’s office requested keeping the agency afloat for another year “so that [DeSantis] would have the opportunity to make an assessment of his own of how unnecessary it is.”
This thickening plot is old news to the Sunshine State. House leaders have attacked spending by Visit Florida in the past, most notably in 2015, when it crafted a " $1 million "reckless spending" endorsement deal with rapper Pitbull.
Still, the agency is hopeful the sun will rise again on its efforts. Visit Florida’s president and CEO and former state lawmaker Dana Young said Visit Florida will continue to provide a “great” return on investment with the funding that's available. “We have great, talented people who work for our organization, and we are very good at what we do," she said. "I have no doubt in my mind that we will continue to produce great results.”
On Twitter, Young has been reposting messages of Visit Florida praise from local players. The agency has also published numerous advocacy videos on its website.