Gov. Rick Scott said Friday he is recommending spending $100 million to advance tourism in the state next year, boosting the budget of Visit Florida to a record level.
The agency is drawing $63 million in the state’s current $74.1 billion spending plan. But Scott said the state’s rising tourism numbers shows pouring even more money into Visit Florida is a good investment.
“We are on track for another record year, and we hope to build on this incredible momentum and make the Sunshine State the number one travel destination in the world,” Scott said in a statement released after he announced his plan at a Friday event at Orlando International Airport.
He added that, “every 85 visitors to our state supports one Florida job, a growing tourism industry equates to more jobs for Florida families and a stronger economy.”
State records show that through the first eight months of last year, 72.6 million visitors came to Florida, a 3.4 percent increase over the same period in 2012. These tourists spent $51.8 billion in the state, an almost 6 percent boost over the previous year. Tourist-related jobs also rose 2.8 percent — adding 29,700 jobs to the state’s economy, Scott said.
State tourism officials are still adding up the full year’s totals. But Will Seccombe, president and CEO of Visit Florida, called Scott’s approach “visionary” and positions the state to become the world’s leading travel destination.
Scott’s expected to unveil his full budget proposal later this month. But spending has been made easier by what is shaping up to be a $1.1 billion surplus of tax collections.
Scott has already called for cutting taxes and fees by $500 million, is likely to push for another $1 billion boost in school spending, and wants $100 million in state agency budget reductions to allow for the election-year largesse.