THE ISSUE: Preserving an important agency, at least for now.
OUR OPINION: Good news for the future.
The state’s tourism and visitor services entity — Visit Florida — will survive for now, thanks to an infusion of funding this month by the state Legislature.
Originally, the Senate had outlined $52.5 million for Visit Florida in its budget and Gov. Ron DeSantis asked for $76 million. In the end, $50 million will save the agency for a while.
Regardless of the final amount being less than desired, we think this is still a victory for the marketing of Florida tourism.
Smaller counties like Citrus benefit greatly from the exposure and promotion spearheaded by Visit Florida. Although we have a vital and active marketing arm in the county Tourist Development Council, Visit Florida is important to promoting our unique area for tourism — statewide to worldwide.
The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce also tirelessly promotes our beautiful region.
Now, however, challenges of keeping tourism alive and well for the future have come about as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. These are unforeseen, unusual and problematic challenges — including what be a great loss of revenue.
This year’s funding agreement turned out to be more than just a shot in the arm. It will more than likely turn out to be a lifesaver after COVID-19 damage within this realm is all said and done.
It is yet to be seen the impact this is going to have on Citrus County and the rest of Florida. After all, parks and beaches are closed, theme parks and other attractions are closed, bars, clubs and restaurants are closed.
Some U.S. residents can’t even come to Florida at this point, and Florida’s four state Welcome Centers are shuttered.
We will lose money. Probably a lot of money.
But we must remember: It is temporary.
In the meantime, Visit Florida strives to continue to attract tourism, even if it is for the future. If you have never visited the website at visitflorida.com, do so. The agency is not trying to maintain the pretense of business as usual. It is honestly addressing closures and provides updated information about all areas of the state.
Down, but not out of business.
Visit Florida carries on with the mission of promoting our sun and fun, even if folks have to put it off for a little while to be safe.