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Sun Sentinel: Florida tourism marketing works — don’t take it away | Opinion

Thursday, April 13, 2017

By Christina Soverns Schwartzman

Off the beaten path eco-adventures lend to some of Florida’s most treasured offerings. Organizations like Visit Florida and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau have worked hard alongside our family over the past decade to bolster our annual visitation to over 160,000.

As a result of the growth, we have been able to create more than 30 new full- and part-time positions within our company. This has allowed us to provide year-round jobs with benefits to dozens of local Floridians thanks to tourism marketing both on a local level and national level with our partners at Visit Florida.

We’ve grown exponentially in the past decade and I attribute this directly to tourism marketing. Visit Florida’s website drives the most traffic to our website every single year. In fact, our website gets visitations from 109 different countries! With the help of Visit Florida and the local CVB, we’ve travelled to many of these countries and participated in trade shows that attract visibility to our community. As a small business with limited staff and marketing budget, I’d never have been able to do this without the group purchasing power these organizations provide.

Proposals by the Florida House to reduce state tourism marketing funding would strip those opportunities from us and take us backward 10 years — and it’s not just our company that would suffer. Let me be perfectly clear, funding for Visit Florida is not corporate welfare as it has been referred to by some legislators. The independent fishing charters, kayak tour operators and other small businesses, some who only employ less than 10 staff members, are the ones who will truly suffer should Visit Florida not be fully funded for the next fiscal year. We all depend heavily on the visibility we receive from their efforts to keep visitors from all over the world coming into our businesses and discovering all Florida has to offer.

I’m thankful to Gov. Rick Scott, Commissioner Adam Putnam, CFO Jeff Atwater and Senator Jack Latvala for recognizing the importance of our industry and fighting to save our jobs. For every dollar our state invests into Visit Florida we see a $3.20 return. We would be hard-pressed to ever discover another industry that could provide that type of fiscal support to our state, let alone one that could sustain over 1.4 million jobs directly and millions more indirectly.

Christina Soverns Schwartzman is the Chief Business Officer of Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston.

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