TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Starting this month, Visit Florida said it
expects to have an additional $40 million to spend on tourism
advertising, thanks to Gov. Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature and
The funds must be used strictly for advertising; they cannot be
diverted for operational purposes, such as increasing the number of
agent fam tours or trade show attendance, according to a Visit
The governor last fall proposed that the legislature appropriate
an additional $20 million as part of his economic stimulus package
when it became apparent Florida was going to experience a
significant downturn in tourist arrivals.
Visit Florida already had committed its $2 million Economic Risk
Fund (spent only in emergency situations) last fall as well as
nearly $8 million in its regular advertising budget for the
2001-2002 fiscal year.
During a special session of the legislature in December, the
lawmakers agreed on a bill to bolster advertising by $20 million
with the proviso that the private sector must match each dollar to
And, the Visit Florida spokesman said, the matching $20 million
was expected to be committed very soon.
The task of enlisting private-sector support was given to
Fahlgren Benito Advertising of Tampa, which administers the Visit
Initially, the additional funds will be spent complementing and
expanding upon "initiatives already under way to stimulate more
in-state and drive-market visitors to Florida destinations, with
marketing progressively moving into more distant domestic and
international visitor markets," said Austin Mott, president and
chief executive officer of Visit Florida.
When consumer research indicates that the public has more faith
in the safety of flying and when more travelers are willing to
accept the boarding delays caused by air safety concerns, Visit
Florida will then divert more money into ads aimed at long-distance
travelers who fly, the spokesman said.
Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, which heavily depend on air
arrivals -- mainly convention-goers, the New York market and
foreign visitors -- were particularly hard-hit after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, visitor officials
from the three cities said.
For example, the Loews-operated Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal
Orlando lost about $4 million worth of convention business in the
fourth quarter 2001. Since Sept. 11, the property has attempted to
fill hotel rooms midweek with leisure travelers.
Barry Pitegoff, Visit Florida's vice president of research,
estimated a loss of more than $7 billion in tourist spending
between mid-September 2001 and June 2002, with an accompanying loss
of $434 million in state sales tax revenue.
Unless significant tourist traffic returns during the second
half of 2002, the losses will continue, he said.