Travis Cummings: VISIT FLORIDA funding isn’t what attracts visitors here
House budget go-to guy Travis Cummings in Tallahassee.

Travis Cummings
"Visit Florida touts a 'return on investment' by taxpayers, but that hasn’t always been the case."

You can’t always get what you want — especially when you’re on a budget; it’s a lesson many of us learn early in life. When lawmakers think about spending Florida taxpayer dollars, that lesson is top of mind.

Why? Because many noble causes seek funding from the state budget — education and teacher pay, nursing home workers, law enforcement, environmental protection, to name just a few. To make room for top priorities like these, we’re taking a hard look at taxpayer funding of VISIT FLORIDA in our budget process this year.

Think about it; VISIT FLORIDA’s advertising campaigns are not needed to drive tourists to the Sunshine State. Major global attractions like Disney World and Universal Studios, pristine beaches, and Florida sunshine are much better than the best ads. Major private attractions like Disney and Universal have large budgets, top market-research and content experts, and the best marketing agencies executing ad campaigns to draw in guests.

This year alone, counties drew in $1 billion through tax levies to draw in tourists through advertising — VISIT FLORIDA’s budget is merely 5% of that. That means if we cut VISIT FLORIDA funding, the state would go from spending $1.05 billion overall on tourism marketing to $1 billion. That’s a small cut that could make significant gains for other state priorities.

Furthermore, we know that tourism numbers haven’t always correlated with VISIT FLORIDA funding levels. In 2003 and 2009, Florida spent less on marketing through VISIT FLORIDA, but tourism numbers increased.

In the Florida House, we support responsible stewardship of Floridians’ hard-earned tax dollars. Those who attack state lawmakers for considering further cuts to Florida’s superfluous tourism marketing agency tend to avoid that point.

A taxpayer-funded marketing campaign might be justified in another state. Take landlocked Nebraska, for example, which literally ran ads with the phrases, “There’s nothing to do here,” and, “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.” A clever ad campaign using self-deprecation and humor to draw attention to the otherwise forgettable Nebraska was a bold — and smart — move. But Florida isn’t forgettable.

If a company or local tourism board wants to advertise with their dollars, let them. With the data we have on VISIT FLORIDA and tourism, continued funding for a coordinated agency from the state budget doesn’t sit well with me. If we stopped funding VISIT FLORIDA, people would not stop visiting.

House Republicans are looking at VISIT FLORIDA once again because we firmly believe in conservative spending of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. The things that make Florida, Florida — white-sand beaches, crystal-clear springs, swamps, and state parks — tell their own story.

Each year, lawmakers must come up with a budget that funds the myriad priorities the third-largest state in the nation without going into debt. Because Floridians entrust us with allocating their hard-earned taxpayer dollars, we aim to spend most responsibly — prioritizing needs above nice-to-haves.

In a state with Disney World, Universal, the world’s best beaches, and dozens of cities and counties marketing themselves to tourists, a statewide marketing agency is merely that, a nice-to-have.

So stop and think about it, the many causes and concerns that request funding from the state budget — issues like teacher and first responder compensation and state agencies like health care, education, transportation, public safety, children and families, people with disabilities, and environmental protection — and weigh those against funding VISIT FLORIDA.

A responsible state budget means setting responsible priorities. What are yours?


State Rep. Travis Cummings serves as Florida House Appropriations Committee chairman.

Guest Author


  • Rusty

    December 11, 2019 at 11:23 am

    By this logic, Disney shouldn’t spend a dime on marketing either. They should use that money on salaries and benefits you know the really important stuff, I mean Disney already tells its own story, right?!? Except, for some strange reason Disney spends billions annually on marketing…perhaps Mr. Iger, Time Magazine’s 2019 Business Person of the Year, should call Travis and get educated on ROI, responsible fiscal practices, how to maximize investment capital and the like. Or the representative could just focus less on getting millions out of the state budget for ball fields and natural resources education centers in his own community and use some of that money for teachers and first responders?

  • Fred

    December 11, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Given the current political environment this isn’t a surprise commentary – after all we have a President that avoided military service can vocalize that he knows more than generals, a president that never was a firefighter telling brave men and women what they are doing wrong and a president that never balanced his own budget telling the federal reserve what to do. This is more of the same ilk and it’s disgusting.
    Those in the tourism business are aware of many facts about our industry that Mr Cummings is clearly not aware of. But like most propaganda pieces he attempts to convey a sense of fiscal responsibility and taking the high road to justify his ignorance. The travel impact he describes was true in 1950 when our business was regional and the message conveyed via a newspaper – that is not today.
    There are millions of visitors every year to Florida from international markets that have better beaches and their own theme parks (or closer theme parks) both Disney and Universal are not exclusive to Florida nor to the USA.
    Part of what is said is true – the State should find ways to use money wisely and I encourage that. However the sweeping statements and unfounded logic comparing spend to effect used in this piece are pathetic. Perhaps Mr Cummings could do some research and talk to some people in the business and maybe learn a little before talking about things he doesn’t understand. Then again maybe he’s just trying to act “presidential”.

  • John Carroll

    December 12, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    The Business Schools at both Valdosta State and the University of North Florida must be shaking their heads in disbelief, did you just add VISIT FLORIDA’s $50 million dollar budget to the $1 billion dollars and get $1.5 billion? Typical politician, you think you’re smart, and you think everyone else thinks you’re smart and you’re not. I guess in most instances, people with an Accounting degree and MBA are sharp with numbers, and I guess in most instances, people with an Accounting degree and MBA are not very sharp with brand marketing.

    Our state is built on tourism and the economic impact it creates that goes back and helps our communities. Why don’t we have a state income tax? Tourism.

    You stated, “The things that make Florida, Florida — white-sand beaches, crystal-clear springs, swamps, and state parks — tell their own story.” It’s a great story, but who’s telling that story? We need VISIT FLORIDA to be out front and lay the groundwork, so the counties can come in and sell their destination. The counties don’t have enough to do both. It’s an incredibly cooperative situation with VISIT FLORIDA and its county partners (unlike politics).

    “In a state with Disney World, Universal, the world’s best beaches, and dozens of cities and counties marketing themselves to tourists, a statewide marketing agency is merely that, a nice-to-have.” What a load of crap, do you know how much Clay County’s marketing budget is? And, stop mentioning Disney and the theme parks, I have yet to see an ad that tells people that after their park visit, they should go check out Sarasota. The theme parks are no different than politicians, self-preservation; it’s all them.

    VISIT FLORIDA has to continue to promote the state, if it doesn’t promote our awesome Florida brand, our tourism numbers will decrease along with its economic impact, and the residents will end up “footing the bill”, so to speak, because the county didn’t collect enough sales tax.

    The competition for tourists and the economic impact they create is fierce, it’s not a matter of whether or not we want to promote the state, we must promote the state. I can’t imagine searching for great beaches and not seeing Florida. In the era of immediacy that we live in, you better believe that California and every Southern state with a beach will snap up a high percentage of tourists that could have been persuaded to come to Florida had we been able to promote the state.

    I’m stunned we haven’t created a law that requires VISIT FLORIDA to live indefinitely and to be highly funded every year for betterment of the residents of this great State. Why don’t you learn something, stand strong and get your nose out of the Speaker’s butt, we’re all not as rich as you guys and able pay for revenue shortfall that you want to create. Florida needs VISIT FLORIDA.

  • Mattie

    December 17, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    While I TOTALLY agree with everything Mr. Carroll has said in his response to this article. What everyone needs to know is there are no longer tourism people running VISIT FLORIDA!
    They’re state workers put in top positions by our past and present administration. These people are state workers that don’t know tourism… all the long term tourism folks have been let go. Those people knew how to market “THE REAL FLORIDA”

Comments are closed.


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