Saved tourism budget dollars may still be out of reach for smaller attractions

The fight for tourism dollars is taking on a new twist. It appears the Florida governor isn't giving up when it comes to marketing the state to tourists.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. --  The fight for tourism dollars is taking on a new twist.

It appears the Florida governor isn't giving up when it comes to marketing the state to tourists. The legislature chopped the marketing budget from $76 million dollars to $25 million, but late this week, Governor Rick Scott vetoed that 67 percent cut. The latest changes are not impressing some smaller attraction and destinations.

Brad Fox first heard about the St. Augustine distillery from a friend.

"It was word of mouth and later I heard a commercial about it," Fox said.

That advertisement prompted him to visit and eventually bring friends and clients.

It's marketing like that which has people in the tourism business raising a glass. 

However, the Florida legislature this year voted to chop the funding to Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing company.

Friday, Governor Rick Scott said he is vetoing that decision because he wants to keep the funding for Florida's tourism industry.

Phil McDaniel is on the board of directors at the St. Augustine Visitors and Convention Bureau, and he's also the president of the St. Augustine Distillery...

He said, "I was happy the governor vetoed the bill because that means it was going to force the house and senate to come back and discuss the issue, which is a good thing."

"But the problem is," he added, "there are some restrictions that will limit how these moneys can be used."

McDaniel is referring to the proposed bill before the legislature now which says Visit Florida can only make matching contributions with private companies... not with local visitor bureaus that run off of bed tax money.

So in the past, a small business -- like the St. Augustine Distillery -- could get a matching contribution from the state as well as from the local tax funded tourism bureau. Under the new blueprint, the Visit Florida dollars would be out of reach for many smaller players.

"So the large private companies are going to be the winners in this," McDaniel noted. "Think the big attractions in central Florida."

That's because, he says, the big companies are the ones who can afford to do big time marketing.

And marketing matters. Fox said it influences which destinations get his dollars.

"Whether it be on the internet or on an app, it definitely plays a role in how I make decisions."

Legislators will take up the proposed tourism bill during its special session June 7 - June 9.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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