Victoria Dominguez

Visit Florida is fighting for its existence after last year’s legislative session brought devastating budget cuts to the tourism agency. However, its pleas for survival aren’t swaying one powerful lawmaker- House Speaker Jose Oliva.

Florida’s tourism and marketing agency has powerful supporters the state senate Now one of its committee has backed a bill keeping the agency around for the next eight years. But Visit Florida’s survival largely depends on the house.

The St. Johns River
FL Division of Tourism via Florida Memory / Florida Memory

Tourism is Florida’s largest industry yet the agency that markets the state could soon be going away. As lawmakers hammer out details of a roughly $90 billion  spending plan, Visit Florida could find itself left out.

Visit Florida's budget has grown since 2004. So has the state's tourism numbers.
Visit Florida

Florida’s tourism and marketing agency could be going away if the Florida House has its way. It comes as tourism remains the state’s dominant industry, and the state continues recovering from toxic algae blooms and hurricanes. 

Gov. Scott touring damage in Key West after Hurricane Irma.
Governor's Press Office

Florida Governor Rick Scott is touting a record tourism despite a challenging Hurricane season.

Thinkspot, Inc.

Rebuilding Florida’s brand won’t be easy in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Multiple tragedies made headlines in Orlando last weekend, but that won’t significantly slow tourism, says a University of Central Florida professor.

Carmichael before crowd
Ricky Carmichael via VISIT FLORIDA

State officials say Florida tourism numbers are expected to set a new record for the fourth consecutive year. But to keep that kind of momentum amidst an aging population, tourism marketers are looking for innovative ways to reach millennials and international travelers.

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Will Seccombe says one attempt is a new partnership with a world-famous motocross star, Florida native Ricky Carmichael. Florida will appear as a landscape in Carmichael’s "Motocross Matchup" bike-racing video game.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Since 2009, Florida has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors to the Sunshine State, and has had record tourism numbers. A new study by a non-partisan watchdog group shows Florida may now also be on track to meeting a big milestone: attracting 100 million visitors by 2015.

Will Seccombe is the head of Florida’s tourism agency, Visit Florida. He says there’s no question in his mind that the industry is on a steady upswing—as outlined in a report by Florida TaxWatch.

Ultimate Pool Party Screen Shot
The CW

The state of Florida’s official marketing corporation, VISIT FLORIDA, says it’s getting better at reaching people in the millennial generation. For the second year in a row, VISIT FLORIDA sponsored a live popular music event in Miami.

The iHeartRADIO Ultimate Pool Party was in June. It was  a who’s-who of today’s hottest music acts and was broadcast on The CW, a network with a lineup including “Vampire Diaries” and “America’s Next Top Model.” And Florida wants the attention of their audience.

Capital Report: 05-16-2014

May 16, 2014

In the coming months, there will be some major shifts in the way statewide crime labs operate. As Sascha Cordner reports, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking to make some procedural changes spurred on by the initial arrest of a former crime lab chemist in a supervisorial role, suspected of tampering with drug evidence.

Tourism marketers in Florida are hoping to see at least 100 million trips to the state this year. Janelle Irwin from member station WMNF reports, the latest numbers are out for first quarter and those figures were record-breaking.

Capital Report: 04-01-2014

Apr 1, 2014

After an information leak last year, lawmakers want a better way to decide who gets to access a state database tracking prescribing practices. Regan McCarthy reports some say law enforcement should need a warrant before looking at the list, but others say that’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Florida lawmakers have been weighing how to regulate telemedicine—generating debate between doctors’ groups and other healthcare providers. The House has been moving its telehealth proposal along, but as Lynn Hatter reports, the Senate version of the bill had its first hearing Tuesday.

Capital Report: 03-31-2014

Mar 31, 2014

Florida lawmakers will again be taking up some gun-related bills this week, either in committee or on the floor.  One of these is the so-called “Warning Shot Bill”.  Another would allow people to carry firearms without permits during times of declared emergency.  Sascha Cordner brings us up to speed on another, somewhat less heated measure, which has been dubbed the “Pop Tart Bill.”

On Monday, a Florida Senate panel OK’d the idea of putting money toward marketing the state as a medical tourism destination. The senator pushing the bill says advertising high-quality medical care could help Gov. Rick Scott meet his goal of attracting 100 million visitors in a year. 

Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

More people are expected to visit Florida this year than ever before. But while tourism is the No. 1 industry in the state, its impact in the capital city remains relatively small. Local officials are hoping to attract more visitors to Tallahassee with new entertainment and dining complexes, outdoor festivals and a historic site commemorating America’s first Christmas.

Tourism is still Florida’s number one industry with places like Disney World a crowd favorite. But Visit Florida CEO Will Seacombe says some other spots are attracting more attention these days:

“We’re doing a much better job of promoting a lot of 'off the beaten track’ opportunities to explore the original Florida. And a lot of that, in a large part this year, is due to the platform Of Viva Florida, and the 500 year anniversary of when Juan Ponce de Leon first landed", he said.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

The second annual Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week and Concert Series was successful at bringing in big tourism dollars, Leon County officials say. The event is part of a greater strategy to paint Tallahassee as a culinary destination.

Lee Daniel directs the Leon County Tourism Development Department. He said, people will travel long distances for good dining experiences. And the 38 restaurants that participated in May’s Capital Cuisine event showed that.

Florida's Tourism Is Up, Unemployment Is Down

May 17, 2013

Tourism has close to $70 billion in economic impact on the state of Florida and in the last two years, the Sunshine State has broken tourism records. Now, the state’s visitors have hit an all-time high for the first quarter of 2013.

“For the month of April Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped to 7.2 percent which puts us once again, below the national average.”

BAM! Florida Tourism Group Banking On Emeril's Star Power

Jan 11, 2013
Cooking Channel

A new TV show hosted by one of the biggest celebrity chefs should bring tourists to the Sunshine State. At least that’s what Florida’s official tourism marketing company is hoping, as it’s financing the show “Emeril’s Florida.”

Florida tourism promoter VISIT FLORIDA is hoping to kick it up a few notches with the help one of the world’s most recognizable chefs.

Florida Tourism Industry On Pace For Record Year

Nov 16, 2012

Florida’s economy is seeing a boost from tourism for the 30th consecutive month, putting the state on track toward a record year. The state saw a significant increase in visitors from the U.S. and abroad during the third quarter of 2012.  

This week, Visit Florida is holding its annual tourism industry convention in Orlando. Organizers say, this year’s convention is more upbeat than in years past as the state is seeing an uptick in tourism.

More than 750 people who work in the tourism industry will be in Orlando for the conference, which kicks off on Wednesday. Eileen Forrow, who is the vice president of sales and marketing for Visit Florida, says Florida’s tourism is picking up the pace nicely after a couple of sluggish years.

Capital Report: 05-11-2012

May 11, 2012

The longtime director of Florida A&M University's famed marching band has resigned. The move comes after the arrest of 11 people in the hazing death of a drum major. It also comes as separate investigations continue into the band’s finances. WFSU sat down with White Friday, a day after the announced he was permanently stepping down. Lynn Hatter prepared this report.

Lawmakers Call for Probe of BP funds

May 7, 2012

A couple of Panhandle lawmakers are calling for a probe into the use of BP funds. This comes after an ex-Florida tourism director accused of embezzling money, was found dead Friday of a suspected drug overdose. Trimmel Gomes reports. 

On Friday Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz along with his son, Representative Matt Gaetz sent a letter to Governor Scott asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to help investigate the misuse of public funds at the Okaloosa County Tourism Development Council. On Monday Scott agreed a review is needed.

Ex-Panhandle Tourism Official Commits Suicide

May 4, 2012

A missing ex-Florida tourism director accused of embezzling money, including funds from BP following the Gulf oil spill, has been found dead in Alabama. As Trimmel Gomes reports, the man took his own life after authorities launched an investigation into his financial dealings.