The Destination Marketing sector reacted with shock last week as a Committee of the Florida House of Representatives voted 10-5 to eliminate Visit Florida. And, as we offered last Thursday, the legislators' minds were made up before they entered the hearing chambers. Nothing the tourism industry would say would have made any difference.
But, that doesn't mean we don't continue to search for new ways to say it. To go beyond the numbers. To connect the dots to tell a human story.
As did Amy Lukasik (VP of the Flagler County Tourism Development Office) when she testified: “Following Hurricane Matthew, within days, Visit Florida...made it a priority to visit with us. They viewed our damage and they had conversations on how they could help us overcome the national attention we received saying our destination was closed for business. At Visit Florida’s expense, they hired a video production company and, through the assistance of our office, produced four videos with two more committed. In rapid fire, they were posted by paid advertisement on the Google network display and all of their Social Media platforms. Collectively, over 3.2 million people viewed the video within one month’s span...and it’s growing. On our behalf (and also at their expense), Visit Florida pitched a culinary trail feature of our destination with a focus on Flagler County and provided us with additional co-op programs at a rate that we could never afford on our own. The effort has shown dividends to our small business owners. In just one month, our (bed tax) collections rose 16 percent over the previous years. This would have never happened without the support of Visit Florida.”
These are the stories that resonate. Stories of how an agency came to the aid of destinations and small businesspeople in a time of need. Stories of fighting back against a media that was unfairly painting them as closed for business.
Florida lawmakers can bicker over the size of Visit Florida's budget...but putting an agency like this out of business? Shameful.