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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

National travel association warns against cutting Visit Florida budget



Florida is making a huge mistake if it starts to slash its tourism marketing budget because of reactions to a few controversial deals, the head of the U.S. Travel Association says.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the association, told Visit Florida board members in Orlando on Tuesday that other states that have cut marketing budgets have paid the price and lost market share and revenues.

“It takes a long time to come back,” Dow said just moments before the board of directors voted to terminate CEO Will Seccombe's contract with hopes it will help stop state legislators from slashing Visit Florida’s funding.

Dow said Pennsylvania is a prime example of a state that cut its budgets for tourism and has lost $600 million in state and local tax revenues generated by tourists.

“You cut dollars, you lose share,” he said.

He said Florida faces a lot of competition, particularly for international tourists. California just upped its tourism marketing to over $100 million for the first time and their goal is clear: get tourists off Florida beaches and to California's.

Seccombe is being let go at a time the Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has threatened to zero out the agency's budget because of their reluctance to release details to some of its contracts - notably with Pitbull. State funding for Visit Florida has grown from $29 million to $78 million since 2009.

The $1 million deal with Pitbull was eventually made public by the singer after Corcoran sued his production company to force the disclosure. Seccombe said he couldn’t release the deal because it was a trade secret that Pitbull’s production company did not want public.

Seccombe was paid $293,000 a year and could have received a $439,000 severance package, but agree to leave with just $73,000, Visit Florida chairman William Talbert III said Tuesday.

[Last modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2017 6:34pm]


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