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Carol Dover: Thank you, Florida leaders, for your hospitality

This Legislative Session was a tumultuous one, with several lawmakers holding to their convictions, refusing to negotiate, but in the end, compromise prevailed.

Thankfully, in the final hours of the Special Session, legislative leaders realized the unparalleled value of tourism to our state’s overall economy. By allocating $76 million of funding for VISIT FLORIDA, Florida will continue to elevate itself as the leading destination for travelers.

The state’s critical investment will continue Florida’s momentum as the world’s leading travel destination and promote growth that will create employment opportunities across a variety of sectors.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Florida’s economy and this significant support from our state leaders goes a long way to keeping our economy strong.

Gov. Rick Scott was relentless and steadfast in his support of our industry’s 1.4 million employees. Leaders in the Florida House and Florida Senate heard the voices of the constituents in their districts and came together to fund VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing efforts.

Sen. Jack Latvala ensured matching fund calculations were defined and protected local tourist development tax funds from being used as matching funds.

I’m proud of our 10,000 members who served as unyielding advocates for issues impacting the hospitality industry. This challenge presented an opportunity to engage our passionate ambassadors of the tourism and now it’s time to celebrate a victory well earned.

While extremely grateful, it is important to remain cautious.

Our industry’s work is far from finished and we must continue to educate our local, state and federal elected leaders. Tourism is the economic engine of the Sunshine State, with visitors in 2015 spending $108.8 billion, averaging $300 million per day. And with 113 million visitors in 2016, Florida is well on its way to becoming the No.1 travel destination in the world.

VISIT FLORIDA has been given the opportunity to hit the reset button on the way it operates. Now that we’ve been through the trenches, it’s time for our industry partners to get to work! VISIT FLORIDA’s has set an ambitious goal of 120 million visitors to our state in 2017. To get there, we must all work together to welcome tourists to our incredible state.

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Carol Dover is President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) and serves on the board of directors for VISIT FLORIDA.

 

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