Summer vacation is brought to you by these lobbyists and political organizations

Vintage Touristic Greetings from Florida, USA Postcard - Vector EPS10. Grunge effects can be easily removed for a brand new, clean sign.
Here are the lobbyists that make Florida Summers a blast.

Memorial Day is in the rearview mirror and that means it’s (unofficially) Summer vacation season. Even better: It looks like there won’t be a Special Session to pull us away from the beach and back to Tallahassee.

Experts are expecting high travel volume this Summer vacation season — loosely defined as the stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day — and when it comes to attracting visitors, there’s no state like the Sunshine State.

The state’s tourism marketing arm, VISIT FLORIDA, recently announced that Florida welcomed a record-setting 140.6 million visitors last year and that there’s good reason to believe that record could be short lived since the state set a quarterly record of 40.6 million visitors during the first three months of the year.

So, where are all these Summer travelers going? All over, but according to, a few Florida beach communities should prep for a deluge. The travel site said Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was the top-searched destination in the category (boo), but it was closely followed by Panama City Beach, with Miami Beach and Destin also listed among the Top 10.

Two of those spots have lobbyists on retainer, with Miami Beach having the most sizable roster. Their team includes Ron Book and lobbying partners Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette and Gabriela Navarro as well as Gary Rutledge, Andrew Rutledge, Diana Ferguson and Rick Lindstrom of Rutledge Ecenia. PCB, meanwhile, has a deal with Jorge Chamizo and Melissa Joiner Ramba of Floridian Partners.

While beaches are an important part of Florida’s brand, the Sunshine State has a few destinations that no state can compete with: Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando.

Let’s get this out of the way before anyone chimes in about California also having Disney and Universal locations: The entirety of Disneyland could fit in the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom, and every single Disney park not located in Florida have a combined footprint about half the size of WDW’s — pictures don’t lie!

Now that we’ve cleared that up, it’s time to give Disney’s Tallahassee team a shout out. Since their roster is as big as an NFL franchise (seriously) we’re just going to list the firms: Smith Bryan & Myers, the Vogel Group, Metz Husband & Daughton, The Southern Group, Jones Walker, GrayRobinson, Colodny Fass, Tripp Scott and The Advocacy Partners. We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention their formidable in-house advocates Adam Babington, Jose Luis Gonzalez, Rena Langely and Elizabeth Watkins.

While Disney is widely seen as Orlando’s premier attraction, Universal Studios has become a powerhouse since it first opened its turnstiles in 1990, especially after they scored arguably the largest coup in theme park history by snagging the Harry Potter license (sorry, no matter how many box office records Avatar sets, Pandora doesn’t compete).

The Tallahassee players handling Universal’s business in the capital city include in-house advocates Melanie Becker and Ilia Torres, as well as Mike Grissom, Brett Bacot and Kim McGlynn of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, Missy Timmins of Timmins Consulting, Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, Erik Kirk and Sophie Smith of PooleMcKinley, and Screven Watson of Screven Watson & Associates.

While the Sunshine State welcomes boatloads of out-of-state and international visitors, Florida residents take vacations, too — we just have the benefit of having better staycations! And, come July, some of our favorite events, activities and experiences will be a little less expensive.

Lawmakers kept the “Freedom Month” (née “Freedom Week”) tradition that began during Chris Sprowls’ tenure in the tax-cut package passed last Session. For those who need a refresher, Freedom Month shaves sales tax off Summer items such as pool floats, fishing supplies and outdoor equipment, in addition to admissions to museums and state parks. This year, it runs July 1-31.

Saving a bit of cash is great for consumers, of course, but the accompanying boost in sales is a boon to retailers. The biggest name in brick-and-mortar advocacy is the Florida Retail Federation, which has in-housers Angela Bonds, Lorena Holley and Jessica Kraynak working alongside contract lobbyists Jon Johnson, Travis Blanton, Marnie George and Darrick McGhee of Johnson & Blanton as well as French Brown of Jones Walker.

Some big-time chains have their own teams, too. Retail juggernaut Walmart relies on Mike Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Samantha Sexton Greer, Bethany McAlister, Will Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar of Corcoran Partners. Target, meanwhile, looks to Carlecia Collins, Joseph Salzverg and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson.

Fishing is a blast, but the kiddos could use a little edutainment during Summer Break, too. Thankfully, Florida has tons of options that deliver the “wow” factor while teaching visitors a thing or two. One of the coolest is Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You may recognize it as the set for Dolphin Tale, which still boosts its visitorship to this day.

Still, you don’t need to be a Harry Connick Jr. fan to enjoy the trip. That’s thanks in part to Alan Suskey and the team at Shumaker Advisors Florida, who ensure that the facility gets the support it needs to keep its many feel-good efforts, such as manatee rehabilitation, chugging along.

There’s some good work going on across the Bay, too, where The Florida Aquarium helps move forward important efforts such as coral reef replenishment. They can thank Ron Pierce, Natalie King, Melody Arnold, Edward Briggs, Natalie Brown, Matthew Herndon of RSA Consulting for making sure lawmakers have them top-of-mind during budget negotiations.

For those looking to get a few days of R&R, Florida just so happens to be the cruise capital of the world and that’s not hyperbole: PortMiami is fresh off its busiest cruise year ever and has a firm grip on the worldwide No. 1 spot in cruise passenger volume.

Carnival is the biggest name in the cruise business — in addition to the Carnival brand, the company also operates under eight under labels, including Holland America, Princess and Seabourn. Florida wouldn’t be the cruise capital of the world if there weren’t lobbyists working in the state capital.

At the helm for Carnival: Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull of Rubin Turnbull & Associates. Meanwhile, Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, has Brian BallardBrad Burleson and Kathy San Pedro of Ballard Partners on retainer.

Whether you decide to hit the beach, tour the parks, embark on a voyage or to simply keep it local, Florida Politics hopes you have a blast on your summer vacation.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  • Dont Say FLA

    May 28, 2024 at 10:25 am

    Destin should have a banner year. The rest of the state? Not so much. Becoming MAGAland, not a great path to profit.

    Monied G0Ps have fled the party poorty or have held their noses for so long they fixing to croak from Trumphixiation. MAGAs are broke ass losers, angry all the time, exactly how their cult leader tells them to be, and exactly how their cult leader demonstrates for them to be.

    Perhaps the tourism plan is to lure MAGAs to Florida then arrest them and then put them to work picking the oranges since Rhonda ran off all the pickers.

  • City or State

    May 28, 2024 at 11:14 am

    Some tourists do drive from the state line to their destination, but isn’t their destination more the Reedy Creek area than it is the state of Florida?

    “Visit Florida” might do better to leave “Florida” out of their ads and promotions.

  • rick whitaker

    May 30, 2024 at 1:44 pm

    another group of my friends just left for a 4 day stay in myrtle beach s.c. here in tenneessee, i hear no one talking about going to florida this summer. trump lives there, that gives people a pause.

Comments are closed.


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