U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement congratulating Florida on a record nearly 113 million visits to the state in 2016:
"This marks the sixth straight year of tourism growth for Florida, and I would like to give credit where credit is due: to the hard-working people of Florida’s travel and hospitality sectors, and particularly to VISIT FLORIDA and its supporters.
"Florida faced a multitude of headwinds last year, including natural disasters, the Zika virus outbreak and the tragic nightclub attack in Orlando. Through it all, the destination marketing efforts of VISIT FLORIDA kept visitors aware of all the state has to offer—and preserved the livelihoods of the 1.4 million Floridians whose jobs depend on a healthy tourism market.
"Despite these obvious benefits, some Florida policymakers are questioning the state's budgetary commitment to tourism promotion. Examples abound of what a risky experiment this is: for instance, when Colorado eliminated its state tourism office in the 1990s, it slipped from the top U.S. summer resort destination to 17th place within one year. Colorado is still, to this day, working to recover its national market share.
"Those who argue that ‘people will come to Florida no matter what’ are willfully choosing to ignore a very obvious reality. Cutting or eliminating Florida's public travel promotion funding is a gift to competing destinations like California—which, I might add, has doubled its state tourism marketing budget over the last few years and is already working to lure visitors away from Florida's beaches to California's. Given the state's very significant challenges last year, it is simply not credible to suggest this record level of visitation would have happened without the efforts of VISIT FLORIDA. From my home in St. Pete to Tallahassee and across the state and country, I constantly point out that strong state tourism budgets mean strong communities, and Florida is among the strongest examples of these investments at work.
"I congratulate Governor Rick Scott, the VISIT FLORIDA team and tourism partners large and small for achieving record visitation last year, and sincerely hope that state lawmakers notice these results of robust public funding for destination marketing."
U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry that generates $2.4 trillion in economic output and supports 15.6 million jobs. U.S. Travel's mission is to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org.