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Florida Tourism Officials Worry About Donald Trump’s Impact on Travel

| June 28, 2017

What visitors from certain countries will not be able to see. (© FlaglerLive)

What Donald Trump will not let people from certain countries come and see. (© FlaglerLive)

Attracting more than 120 million visitors before the end of the calendar year remains a goal of the state’s tourism-marketing arm, now that Visit Florida’s funding won’t be slashed.

But Visit Florida board members, whose agency continues to undergo belt-tightening as a result of new operational guidelines ordered by state lawmakers, expressed concern Tuesday over the potential international impact of President Donald Trump on the travel industry.

Vice Chairwoman Maryann Ferenc, a Tampa restaurateur who will take over as chairwoman on Saturday, openly wondered if the board should consider a goal based on the economic impact of tourism on the state, rather than the individual number of visitors.

“If we were budgeting for our own businesses, we would look at the things that have happened in this year, both in terms of the state of Florida as well as we know that we’re seeing (a) potential to an international drop in business,” Ferenc said. “We’ve seen that at the international shows that we’ve gone to. It’s a variable that we really have not a lot of control over and we’re going to suffer from.”

Nelson Mongiovi, interim chief marketing officer for Visit Florida, said he and others have heard “anecdotal” reports, both positive and negative, about international travel due to the new president, but the agency doesn’t expect to have hard data until information for the first half of the year comes out in August.

“I just don’t know how much of the international evaluation is anecdotal or how much of it real,” Mongiovi said. “We’ve heard Trump slump. We’ve heard Trump bump. I’ll tell you the only true data I’ve seen to date in April was U.S. visitation was actually up 4 percent and we’re very eager to see what that translates into as far as Florida’s proportional share.”

While the goal of 120 million visitors remains a “cautiously optimistic” figure as they revamp their year-round marketing plans, agency officials expressed a desire to attract a better class of visitors, winter travelers, families and those undertaking weekend get-aways, who spend more per person while in the Sunshine State.

“We also understand that at the end of the day it’s all about yield,” Mongiovi told the board of directors during a teleconference Tuesday. “We would certainly rather have 80 million of the right visitors in the state versus 120 million of the wrong ones, that aren’t spending money and are just applying pressure on infrastructure.”

That doesn’t mean they’re abandoning the goal, he added.

The calendar year benchmark could justify the battle waged by Gov. Rick Scott against House leadership to maintain $76 million in funding for Visit Florida, after legislators sought to slash the agency’s budget to $25 million during the regular session that ended early in May.

Scott, who signed a special session bill on Monday (HB 1A) that included the governor’s original $76 million request for Visit Florida, argued that the money was needed to boost the state’s tourism numbers from the nearly 113 million estimated in 2016.

“With full funding of $76 million and important accountability and transparency measures in place, this legislation puts Visit Florida on the right track to continue supporting Florida jobs and attracting record numbers of visitors to our state,” Scott said Monday in a press release.

Florida drew 31.1 million visitors during the first three months of the year, the highest number during any quarter in state history, according to the governor’s office.

Florida’s tourism numbers were bolstered by a 3.2 percent increase in domestic travelers, who make up the vast majority of the state’s visitors. Meanwhile, there was a 2.2 percent drop in Canadians — due in part to a weaker Canadian dollar — and a 1.8 percent decrease in overseas visitors. Both are trends that have been underway for more than a year.

Before the marketing changes were outlined to the board on Tuesday, Visit Florida had already announced it had severed its $2.875 million sponsorship of an auto racing team, with $1 million left on the deal, and was negotiating for a better agreement with an English football club.

Those sponsorship deals were among a number of the agency’s marketing agreements — including a $1 million contract with Miami rapper Pitbull — that drew questions from state lawmakers.

The agency is also expected to undergo its latest executive re-organization in the next 30 to 45 days.

Alfredo Gonzalez, Visit Florida’s onetime vice president of global meetings and trade, and Shari Bailey, formerly the international marketing program director, both submitted their resignations on June 12. Neither expressed a reason for their exits.

Their resignations came days after the state Legislature upped the funding level for Visit Florida during a special session earlier this month.

As part of the bill, Visit Florida also received new operational guidelines that include a cap on the annual pay for its executive director, new cash contribution requirements from local tourism boards and a requirement that contracts valued at $500,000 or more be posted online. Contracts in excess of $750,000 will have to go before the Joint Legislative Budget Commission and could be voided within 14 days by the House speaker or Senate president.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

Note: the story was corrected to reflect that a quote previously attributed to Visit Florida CEO and President Ken Lawson should have been attributed to Nelson Mongiovi.

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12 Responses for “Florida Tourism Officials Worry About Donald Trump’s Impact on Travel”

  1. Sherry says:

    Here’s what the Scottish people say:

    Scots travellers are less likely to visit America since Donald Trump was elected as president, but remain divided on whether Brexit has made them more or less likely to travel to countries within the European Union, a poll has revealed. The presidential election has prompted 31 per cent of Scots – the third highest proportion of all UK regions – to say they would be less likely to visit the US this year compared to last year.

    Read more at:

    Here’s what the Canadians say:

    The message is clear: Americans want out. But do Canadians want in? Has a Trump victory – ushered in as it was on a wave of sexism, racism, and homophobia and a general northward hollering about bad trade deals – already changed the Canadian desire to travel south?

    Early indications are yes. Fisher says that on Wednesday – the day after the election – searches on Cheapflights for flights from Canada to the U.S. had dropped by 8 per cent. By Thursday, they were down 13 per cent.

    And, in general, it’s called the “trump slump”:

    The result has been labeled the “Trump Slump,” a drop in international tourism that’s predicted to cost the United States more than $7 billion. Experts across the travel industry have sounded the alarm that the Trump presidency, already destructive on so many fronts, may also do serious financial damage to the country’s $250 billion tourism sector.

    Frommer’s, a prominent travel guide, notes that “the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an ‘official’ travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8 percent” for this year. ForwardKeys, which crunches travel numbers, points to a 6.5 percent downturn in international travel to the U.S. in the week after Trump attempted to issue the Muslim travel ban in January. During the same period, the company found reservations for U.S.-bound flights from Western Europe fell 14 percent and plunged 38 percent from across the Middle East. And a survey released this month by the Global Business Travel Association concluded “45 percent of European business travel professionals say they are less likely to schedule meetings or events in the U.S.,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

  2. Sherry says:

    From my very personal experience. . . as a couple who has successfully completed over “60” home exchanges in other countries, over the past 10 years. . .

    I am, now, finding it very difficult to convince people from other countries to come to Florida, and to the USA in general. While most people are still very polite and say things like they prefer to “stay in Europe” or “go to Asia”. . . several home exchangers have been much more up front and said they will not come to the USA as along as trump is president. . .

    So much for the “tourist industry” in Florida!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Our safety is more important than tourism. Our safety should be the top concern of all Americans and trump tourism and the all mighty dollar. I believe most American’s agree with and support Trump! If you don’t like it, leave the USA and go elsewhere.

  4. snapperhead says:

    It’s true… a majority of people do support Trump….if in your world 37% support is a majority. Not so much in the real world.

  5. Mr G says:

    who cares stay in your country AMERICANS SAFETY COMES FIRST ….

  6. Mark101 says:

    This will have zero impact to the “tourist industry” in Florida!. With 113 million tourist coming to Fla in 2016 I really doubt 500 or so will impact the Florida tourism industry . And in Fla we had the tragedy of the Pulse nightclub attack and hurdles that included a hurricane and the Zika virus in 2016, And the numbers still rose. The 90-day ban affects would-be visitors from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.There were just 110,365 tourists from those six countries last year, according to State Department data.

  7. Sherry says:

    Those of us who are intelligent, and educated understand that we live in a “global society”. . . one where actual scientific and statistical FACTS should be the basis of opinion and decision making. trumps approval rating has never been over 50%! Most of the time it is between 30-45%. How can that FACTUALLY be a majority?

    The MAJORITY of people in the United States. . . and over 95% of other countries. . . consider trump to be “Arrogant” and down right “Dangerous”! Many consider him to be mentally disturbed!

    Everyone should take the time to read and truly understand the detailed research done by the Pew Center:

  8. Sherry says:

    The latest domestic polls show trump’s approval rating at less than 40%. . . take a look:

  9. gmath55 says:

    We don’t want them here anyway! Safety, safety. You don’t like it move!

  10. Paula says:

    Florida should concentrate on getting more residents – residents spend money year-round. Residents volunteer, and support schools, libraries, restaurants, movies theaters, stores, the construction industry, the health care system, bring in their family and friends as tourists year-round, etc., etc…..

    Residents care about Florida!

  11. Flatsflyer says:

    Almost all Terrorism is from US Citizens, we have many groups like the KKK, the Religious Right, the GOP, etc, etc with extreme views who are trying to destroy the Country or mold it into something that fits their agenda. Trump is working hard to destroy the Country and too dam many have bought into his plan.

  12. Sherry says:

    And now for some actual FACTS on the subject:

    The MAJORITY of murders and terrorists attacks in the USA are are committed by US Citizens, NOT foreigners! ZERO terror attacks have been committed by Syrian refugees! This in depth analysis from The Atlantic:

    Where America’s Terrorists Actually Come From. . .
    Syrian refugees have committed ZERO attacks in the United States.

    This weekend, Rudy Giuliani went on Fox News to explain why Donald Trump’s decision to bar Syrian refugees from U.S. shores and suspend visas for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries did not amount to a Muslim ban. “What we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger,” the former New York City mayor said, in reference to the targeted nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. “Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. … It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.”

    But Trump’s policy does not have the factual basis that Giuliani claims. The data on terrorism in the United States consistently indicates that the threat largely lies elsewhere.

    The Coldhearted Folly of Trump’s Proposed Immigration Order

    ISIS does control territory in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, while al-Qaeda has a major presence in Yemen and the terrorist group al-Shabab is based in Somalia. The U.S. State Department alleges that the governments of Iran, Sudan, and Syria support international terrorism. The Trump administration also selected these countries because the Obama administration and Congress had previously designated them as places people couldn’t visit if they planned to participate in the U.S. visa-waiver program.

    In addition, people from the countries in Trump’s crosshairs have certainly committed acts of terrorism in the United States; a Somali refugee injured several people in an attack at Ohio State University just this fall. Asylum-seekers have also recently been implicated in terrorist plots in Europe.

    But after sifting through databases, media reports, court documents, and other sources, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, has arrived at a striking finding: Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.


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