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Florida's Restaurant and Lodging Association pushing to extend Visit Florida funding

Posted at 5:21 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 17:21:26-05

(WTXL) — Tourism will slip if the state's taxpayer funded vacation bureau disappears.

That's the message from Florida's Restaurant & Lodging Association.

The group is gathering support and pushing for lawmakers to continue funding Visit Florida.

The legislature cut its budget last session from $76 to $50 million with the expectation Visit Florida prove its worth or be disbanded next July.

A bill extending the organization until 2028 is moving in the Senate, but has yet to be scheduled for discussion in House committees.

The Restaurant and Lodging Association calls Visit Florida an asset, saying it's valuable for marketing rural communities and those recovering from natural disasters.

"You can't get complacent. We are competitive. We need to continue to be competitive. We need to continue to be top of mind. While we have seen growth every year, that growth has slowed," said Samantha Padgett, FRLA General Counsel.

The latest data from Visit Florida, released Wednesday morning, backs that up.

Tourist numbers remained high in the third quarter, but the growth rate was only 1.2 percent.

The average over the last eight years was 5.6 percent.

Governor DeSantis is still standing behind Visit Florida, asking lawmakers for a continued $50 million in next year's budget.