Published on Friday, February 10, 2017
A bill has been passed to pull state funding for Visit Florida despite fierce opposition from the state's tourism industry.
A House committee in Florida voted by a 10-5 margin in favour of a measure that would effectively kill the tourism marketing organization.
Over 150 speakers representing the state's tourism industry warned the bill threatened businesses and jobs.
They argued that smaller businesses would be more vulnerable to the impact of the bill than industry heavyweights such as Disney and Universal.
The vote is a blow to Governor Rick Scott who had earlier criticised the House, saying the move would hurt Florida's economic momentum.
Scott has successfully campaigned for increases in Visit Florida's budget, from $34 million in 2011 to $74 million in 2015. However, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who supported the bill to withdraw funding, claimed the money was wasted.
"Spending more taxpayer money on VISIT FL (or less) has not demonstrated a direct impact on tourism," he tweeted earlier this week.
He included in his tweet figures that showed that between 2011-2015, when Visit Florida funding rose 112%, visitor numbers rose only 22%.
Scott had asked for a further $76 million for Visit Florida this year, but the tourism organisation had appointed a new CEO in January on a salary understood to be $120,000 less than his predecessor's.
The former CEO Will Seccombe resigned following criticism over a secret $1 million payment to rapper Pitbull to promote Florida in music videos and online.
Visit Florida's media representatives in the UK said they were unable to comment on yesterday's vote to withdraw funding for the tourism organisation.
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