Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa Bay area tourism officials air concerns about state cuts

It's been a tough year for Visit Florida, the taxpayer-supported agency that promotes tourism in the Sunshine State.

Legislators blasted the organization as fat and politically tone deaf. Visit Florida had to lay off 15 percent of its employees to deal with a $10.5 million budget cut. Directors dismissed controversial chief executive Bud Nocera, even though it meant paying him $537,000 in severance over the next two years.

On Thursday, officials at Visit Florida took flak from a usually friendly crowd: tourism officials from Florida counties.

Their biggest gripe was the agency's plans to cut back on promoting Florida in Europe, an important feeder market. Visit Florida will close its last marketing office on the continent next month and ended a public relations contract in the United Kingdom.

California recently launched a $10 million tourism advertising campaign in Europe, said Pinellas tourism director D.T. Minich at the meeting of Visit Florida directors at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.

"How can we compete in that market from (offices in) Tallahassee?" he said. "There's no face of Florida in Europe, and that's a darn shame. Showing up a couple times a year isn't good enough. We've got to fish where the fish are."

There were 137,000 fewer overnight visitors to Pinellas County in the first quarter of 2009, down 6.6 percent from a year earlier. But the number of European tourists held steady. They typically stay longer than domestic visitors and spend more money, Minich said.

Visit Florida officials insisted the budget cuts — nearly $7 million from advertising — made it impossible to fund the European efforts, which cost about $500,000 annually.

County tourism directors also objected to how little information they received in the wake of Nocera's dismissal May 8. Some grumbled over how directors picked Chris Thompson, the agency's chief operating officer, as his permanent replacement without a national search.

Visit Florida directors had to move quickly to re-establish credibility with legislators and restore confidence among demoralized staffers, said Richard Goldman, chairman of the board for the quasi-public agency.

Nocera angered a key committee chairman, state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, by hiring a Missouri call center instead of one in Florida. Fasano unsuccessfully lobbied Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the agency's $25 million budget.

Tampa Bay area tourism officials air concerns about state cuts 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 9:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. As St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit broadens its business, it shrinks its name to Jabil

    Corporate

    St. Petersburg's Fortune 500 company, Jabil Circuit, informally tossed aside the "Circuit" in its name some time ago. That's because circuit board manufacturing, the company's core business for decades, has been squeezed out by a broader business agenda ranging from consumer packaging to supply chain management.

    Jabil Circuit informally dropped "Circuit" from its marketing material and signage, like at its St. Petersburg headquarters, years ago. Now it's official.
[Times file photo]
  2. Kahwa Coffee to open second drive-thru store in St. Petersburg

    Retail

    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.

    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.
[Times file photo]

  3. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Target Corp. has reached an $18.5 million settlement over a massive data breach that occurred before Christmas in 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  4. John Morgan 'prepared to invest $100M' in medical marijuana

    State Roundup

    John Morgan spent nearly $7 million pushing two statewide ballot initiatives to expand medical marijuana throughout the state of Florida.

    Personal injury lawyer John Morgan says he's ready to invest $100 million in medical marijuana. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  5. Google tracking real-world sales as well as online ads

    Business

    SAN FRANCISCO — Google already monitors your online shopping — but now it's also keeping an eye on what you're buying in real-world stores as part of its latest effort to sell more digital advertising.

     Google already monitors your online shopping - but now it's also keeping an eye on what you're buying in real-world stores as part of its latest effort to sell more digital advertising. 
[Associated Press]