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As Gov. Scott Touts Latest Increase in Tourists, Visit Florida Critics Still Pounce on Spending

| February 20, 2017

florida tourism

Still on the rise.

Gov. Rick Scott, embroiled in a fight with House leaders over the future of the state’s tourism-marketing agency, said Thursday that Florida hit record tourism numbers in 2016.

The surge in visitors came despite reports during the past year of toxic algae blooms in Florida waterways, the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, damage from a pair of hurricanes and a terrorist-related attack at an Orlando nightclub.

Scott went to the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne to announce that the Sunshine State attracted 112.8 million tourists in 2016. He credited the 5.86 percent increase from the prior year to Visit Florida, one of the agencies House Speaker Richard Corcoran has targeted to dismantle.

“I don’t understand how anyone can look at Florida’s booming tourism industry, and the more than 1.4 million jobs it supports, and vote to kill it,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “The legislation the Florida House is pushing puts more than 1.4 million jobs at risk and we cannot let that happen.”

Corcoran told The News Service of Florida on Thursday the governor must prove to lawmakers that tourism spending is directly tied to the increase in tourists.

“Show me how Pitbull’s video brought more millennials to the state of Florida? You just can’t do it,” Corcoran said, referring to a controversial $1 million contract Visit Florida inked with Miami hip-hop artist Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull. “We’re in la la land.”

Corcoran has also questioned the agency’s sponsorship deals with the London-based Fulham Football Club and an IMSA racing team.

Scott and Corcoran have been locked in a battle about the future of Visit Florida and the economic-development agency Enterprise Florida. House members, led by Corcoran, have started moving forward with a bill that would abolish the agencies.

On Thursday, the speaker’s office sent out a video highlighting failed business incentive packages. The video had been previewed the night before during a gathering of House members at The Edison restaurant in Tallahassee.

Meanwhile, Scott has been traveling the state this week, holding events to drum up support for the agencies and his requests for $85 million in state money for business-recruitment incentives and $76 million for tourism marketing.

Visit Florida received $78 million from lawmakers for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

Scott maintains such money is needed to attract businesses and jobs to Florida and has helped the state’s economy grow the past six years.

He has also used the appearances to criticize local state representatives who have voted against maintaining Visit Florida or Enterprise Florida.

The measure (HB 7005) to abolish the public-private Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida will be heard by the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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9 Responses for “As Gov. Scott Touts Latest Increase in Tourists, Visit Florida Critics Still Pounce on Spending”

  1. Wishful thinking says:

    Shame on tricky Ricky once again. He needs to take his tacky tourist tribesmen with him! Time for a new Gov..a real one..

  2. Dutch says:

    Wishful, I’ve lived here just about my entire life and I can tell you first hand Rick Scott has been one of the better governors we’ve had.

  3. Pogo says:

    Tricky Ricky is a snake who acts like a rooster claiming the sun rises because he crows. And look at all the fools who believe him; and criminals who know better but share in the spoils of his crimes. As long as the felons and useful fools who elect Republicans succeed – we will continue on the road to ruin.

  4. PCer says:

    @Dutch, take a ride down to S. Florida and tak a look at what Rick Scott and the GOP legislators have done to the Everglades, the Biscayne Aquifer, Biscayne Bay, and The Keys. They have devastated the natural beauty of our state but have reaped the profits for a Big Sugar and Big Ag. The Everglades and coral reefs are dying because of his policies.

  5. Wishful Thinking says:

    Reply to ‘Dutch’…
    I’ve lived in Florida for 40 and 1/2 years…
    I’d take Jeb, Charlie or Bob Graham any day over tricky Ricky .You might consider taking off the blinders on your ‘first hand’…..

  6. Layla says:

    Agree with you, Dutch. Many forget that A1A would still be under repairs if it were not for this Governor.

  7. Dutch says:

    My bet is the people claiming Gov Scott is crooked and has been bad for the state, are the same ones who think Hillary is honest and would have been a good President.

  8. Joan says:

    1.4 million residents of this state depend directly upon tourism for their livlihoods. Many many more depend upon tourists for the dollars they bring to our state via the purchases they make while visiting. All Floridians benefit from the taxes this state receives from the tourists visiting our state and even more so from those who then decide to make this home. Visit Florida has made it possible to keep the tourists coming here despite a hurricane, a Zika virus and a tragedy at a nightclub as well as every state and nation who promote themselves as the travel destination of choice. As my grandmother used to say, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” Anyone who thinks we do not need Visit Florida will be in for a rude awakening if it is lost and we will all suffer for it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    PC, the damage done in the Glades and South Florida was done long before Rick Scott got here. Wishful, the fact that you believe Charlie Was a good governor tells all I need to know. Bob Graham was a good governor.

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