Impressed by the apparent impact of a beefed-up tourism promotion budget, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday proposed a 57 percent jump in spending to a record $100 million.
By comparison, Visit Florida had $63.5 million to spend in the last state budget.
“We are on track for another record year, and we hope to build on this incredible momentum and make the Sunshine State the number one travel destination in the world,” Scott said during a visit to Orlando International Airport.
Visit Florida president and chief executive Will Seccombe said he is optimistic the Legislature will approve the increase this spring.
“We have been able to demonstrate a significant return on their investment in Visit Florida,” Seccombe told the Herald-Tribune. “In the last three years, since the governor and the Florida Legislature began competitively funding Visit Florida, we have seen three consecutive years of increased visitation.”
The $100 million figure would make Florida No. 1 in tourism spending nationwide, ahead of Hawaii.
“I think the governor’s suggestion is a little eye- popping,” said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice and chair of the state’s Committee on Commerce and Tourism. “We all support Visit Florida, and they’ve done an excellent job promoting tourism.”
But Detert said she wants to make sure there is enough money in the budget for improving roads, for beach renourishment, and for “making sure our valuable rivers and springs are well funded.”
“We can advertise to beat the band, but if we don’t have Siesta Key’s beach the way we want it, that puts a crimp in tourism, too.”
Scott hopes to attract 100 million tourists in 2014, a goal first established — but missed — last year.
The pending funding increase comes as the state remains on pace to have hosted 94 million visitors in 2013, up from the previous record of 91.5 million in 2012.
Official numbers will be released next month.
If approved, the funding increase also would filter down to a more local level, said Charlotte County tourism director Lorah Steiner.
“It gets to us through Visit Florida programs, where they buy down the cost of advertising so we can get in at a rate that is much lower than we normally would pay,” Steiner said.
Charlotte County Tourism Development Council spends roughly $500,000 a year on marketing.
“Gov. Scott’s increased funding to Visit Florida will mean that they will be able to provide us with more opportunities to reach our target markets in ways that we would not be able to do on our own,” Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, said in a statement.
Visit Florida helps local agencies reach overseas visitors, too, Steiner said. In 2012, some 13 million were international tourists.
“If they are already marketing Florida to Germany, it helps us by bringing more attention to the state, and then we bring attention to our destination,” Steiner added.
The spending done on tourism, and the resulting visits, has a much broader economic impact than is visible on the surface, Steiner said.
She added that tourism dollars also ripple outward and benefit a number of different industries — including real estate.
“Not many people move here unless they come here as a tourist,” Scott said in a speech Thursday at Port Manatee.