Bill Lupfer: What happens if VISIT FLORIDA goes away?

Other destinations have made the disastrous mistake and paid a high price.

Our state’s tourism promotion organization, VISIT FLORIDA, provides the opportunity for Florida’s secondary and tertiary tourist attractions to share the spotlight on what makes Florida special. The tourism promotion agencies for Florida’s smaller and rural counties partner with VISIT FLORIDA to convey their distinctive destinations to the world.

Unquestionably, Florida’s smallest, most vulnerable tourism destinations have the most to lose if VISIT FLORIDA is allowed to sunset.

Fortunately, we don’t have to surmise the consequences as other destinations have made the disastrous mistake to cut their tourism funding and paid a high price for their error.

Colorado cut its tourism marketing budget from $12 million to zero in 1993. Within one year, the state lost $1.4 billion in traveler spending, and Colorado slipped from first place to 17th place in the summer resort category. Within four years of discontinuing tourism marketing, $2.4 billion was lost in traveler spending. Colorado’s domestic market share plunged by 30% within two years. It took Colorado 21 years to regain its share of overnight leisure travelers.

Pennsylvania cut its tourism marketing budget cut from $30 million to $7 million in 2009. From 2009 to 2014, Pennsylvania lost $7.7 billion in visitor spending, $3.2 billion in labor income, and almost $450 million in state taxes. Every $1 cut from Pennsylvania’s tourism budget cost $3.60 lost in tax revenue, and between 2009 and 2014, the state lost more than $600 million in state and local tax revenue.

Washington completely shut down its tourism office in 2011. In 2011, the growth in traveler spending in Washington state was 13% slower than national growth. Growth in state and local taxes generated by travel was 26% slower than the nation overall. In 2011, traveler spending in competing Montana grew 70% faster than in Washington State.

These examples demonstrate there is a clear correlation between investments in tourism promotion at the state level, and revenue coming into the state. Reduced spending on VISIT FLORIDA may already be affecting our state’s economy, with the slowest quarterly growth in visitation since 2010 reported in the period July-September 2019.

Next month, the Florida Legislature convenes for its 2020 Session. Inevitably, there will be debate regarding the future of VISIT FLORIDA.

While the state’s own chief economist has determined it provides a positive return on investment for Florida taxpayers, some still speculate what would happen if VISIT FLORIDA were to sunset June 30, 2020, as Florida Statutes currently stipulate.

The Florida Senate has adopted a transparent process of debating the future of VISIT FLORIDA. The Florida House should take an equally responsible approach.

By examining facts, Florida’s tourism industry is prepared to illuminate the power of tourism and defend critical review of the public-private partnership, our state’s brand steward, VISIT FLORIDA.


Bill Lupfer is president and CEO of the Florida Attractions Association.

Guest Author


  • Larry Gillis

    December 18, 2019 at 11:50 am

    If “Visit Florida” is such a money-maker, then the private sector will cheerfully fund it on their own. The taxpayer will, once again, get a free ride on the backs of private enterprise. We should unload all of these State-supported (i.e., taxpayer-supported) emoluments. The State should not be deciding winners-and-losers.

    Next time, vote LIBERTARIAN.

  • Steve Grabarczyk

    December 18, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    The main problem is the “Director” Dana Young, is paid a 6 figure salary which is a waste.

Comments are closed.


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