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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott defends funding tourism marketing agency while calling for reforms



Gov. Rick Scott has called for a series of reforms to Visit Florida and is pushing for the quasi-governmental agency’s leader to resign. But the Republican governor said in Tampa on Thursday that he still supports efforts to market the state and grow tourism.

Florida House leaders have threatened big cuts to Visit Florida’s budgets because of a series of marketing decisions that have come under fire from conservative Republicans. Visit Florida spent more than $2.8 million on a LeMans-style racing team this year and gave $1.2 million to a British soccer team to promote the state, including having “Visit Florida” on its jersey and on its stadium rooftop. And last month Miami-based musician Pitbull released details of a previously secret contract with Visit Florida that showed the agency gave him $1 million to promote Florida’s beaches at his concerts, on social media and in a music video for a song called Sexy Beaches.

But Scott made clear on Thursday that he still supports marketing the state for tourism. Scott said Visit Florida has been successful and to continue to grow tourism, the state needs “to continue to market and anybody who doesn't understand that doesn't understand how the economy works."

On Tuesday in Orlando, Visit Florida’s board of directors will meet to discuss Scott’s letter from December that called for the agency to enact reforms to insure more transparency of public money and called for the resignation of Will Seccombe, who has led the agency for more than 4 years - a stretch that has seen record tourism numbers every year.

Seccombe has defended the marketing decisions as ways to reach new audiences and lure high-end tourists who stay in Florida longer and spend more money.

Tampa Bay Times Reporter Paul Guzzo contributed to this report.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 5, 2017 11:55am]


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