Destination Innovate Blog

Visit Florida Shut Down

WTFlorida? Perspective on shutting down Visit Florida

Most all professionals in the Destination Marketing Organization world, both DMOs and vendors have had to defend the role of the DMO.  To explain and persuade people of government of the relevancy of the DMO, is a never-ending education process.

Surely you’ve read the news that funding from the legislature for VISIT FLORIDA is set to run out October 1, 2019.  So many opinion pieces have been blowing up the web in support of VF funding.  I’m adding my two cents (or three) to this very real issue.

I have no affiliation with VISIT FLORIDA, and am not a vendor.  Just a life-long DMO marketing professional who is passionate about the place of the DMO and fighting the good fight for them.

So, again WTFlorida?!?  I’ve read comments from legislators calling it “corporate welfare”, “visitors already come to Florida, the entity isn’t needed”, “taxpayers have doled out enough.”  Good gravy on a cracker, if I had a nickel for every time I heard these same skewed perspectives on each and every one of the thousands of destinations I’ve worked with:

The two arguments I want to explore for you:

  1. The taxes are not from residents. It’s tourism-related spending taxes.  Your visitors fund this, not residents.
  2. Visitors already come here, why market?  It’s been well documented that increased funding for VF (and any DMO) has a direct impact on increased visitation and thus, economic health in the state.

Since you can’t fix stupid, I’m going to skip the tax argument drill-down because it’s law and private companies fund half of VF in a public-private partnership. Not to mention the state gets $2.15 in tax for every $1 allocated to VISIT FLORIDA.   So, no, Karen, you are not funding Florida tourism advertising.

Why have a state DMO when a global travel boom is in effect?

You know, the state isn’t all Disney and beaches.  VF plays a significant role in bolstering tourism in parts of the state not world-renowned.  This trickles down to the smallest tourism-related businesses and the bottom line of not having a state DMO is:

It makes it more expensive for travel business to do business.


Part 2:  11 reasons de-funding VISIT FLORIDA will be FUBAR for the sunshine state.

  1.  Increase in booking commissions
    – Smaller hoteliers have it bad enough.  The OTAs own the consumer trust and take a nice fat 18%+ commission on. every. booking.  Say VF is no more.  The OTAs have a vested interest in marketing the state and owning more real estate for themselves.  They start buying more advertising inventory to increase their market-share.  This drives up the cost of advertising for an average hospitality company significantly.  So, they pay more per room to fill it and they pay exponentially more to get any attention to their property(s).
  2.  More expensive to market
    – The increased individual costs to market in Florida is not just reserved for hoteliers.  Everyone who relies on visitors, meetings, travel trade business will be paying more. And valuable search campaigns? Fuhgitaboutit! Individual DMOs, attractions, restaurants, gift shops, transportation, etc will likely be priced out of the PPC game first, traditional already being more than most can handle and finally social.
  3.  Less access to important research
    – The information a state organization provides the travel businesses/orgs is critical for marketing and sales strategy. Without it, wasted ad dollars is just the tip of the iceberg. On the other side is not understanding your marketing audience well enough to speak to them effectively – possibly even causing the travel businesses brand damage.
  4.  Lack of international representation
    – International tourism and travel trade makes up for almost 11 million visitors in Florida.  Again, it’s expensive to market outside of the US meaning decreased representation for all but the very well funded travel brands.  In addition to ad and sales mission $$, international visitors have to be catered to and persuaded to travel inbound to the US in many cases. That’s manpower lost. If VF ceases to exist, then the important partnership for FLA with Brand USA also gets cut presumably.
  5.  Long tail impact of going dark
    – So, we know increased advertising money is a thing for biz/orgs in travel and will have immediate impact.  What about long term impact?  It’s reasonable to assume at some point, visitation will have true decline.  Say it with me…JOBS.  1.4 million jobs are supported by efforts.  Already an issue in expensive Florida destinations, where will these front line employees live when they lose their employment?
  6. Mouse ears and beaches are not enough.
    – This global travel boom we are in has an interesting caveat, millennial travelers choose unique experiences over the main attractions of their older traveler counterparts.  The experience economy of Florida suffers without a main source of state discovery.
  7. Lack of funds to innovate.
    – Pretty obv, but innovation is the last frontier of DMO relevance.  Innovating and supporting industry growth over competing destinations is pretty important in the next 5 years, or actually, the next forever.
  8. Loss of education
    – A state DMO typically supports the industry in constant education opportunities for marketing and sales.  They are responsible for offering education to stakeholders in best practices, trends, marketing maneuvers and more.  The loss of curated information opportunities will rise costs of marketing (again) and diminish effectiveness of competition.
  9. Brain drain.
    – You know how many country, state and tier one DMOs would love to have the talent from VISIT FLORIDA?  Even private sector is most likely already courting the brightest in the organization.  Losing these bright and talented minds working for the state will have .. yeah, you guessed it..irreversible economic impact.
  10.  Backwards movement.
    – Reinvent, not deconstruct.  Ok, ok, so if you can’t get the representatives to “get it”, then there should be some type of “lean in” opportunity to reinvent measurement, community impact and streamlined efforts.  But, doesn’t look like that’s on the table.
  11. Domino effect.
    – Full of bull politicians are not reserved for Florida.  In every state, county and city there’s a few rabble-rousers angling to make themselves look like they are “for the people”, prudent and cost-cutting.  IF VF does not get funded before October 1 (and I actually think it will), it’ll be open season for all DMOs.

So many other articles have done an excellent job at defending the organization and make incredible points.  I wanted to offer mine as the above reasons can apply to any type of DMO who worries about relevancy and threats like this.

I’m with you.

You don’t have to be my client.

You don’t have to be my friend.

If ever you need a perspective for relevancy of your position,

I.  Am. Here.

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