VISIT FLORIDA signs off on budget cuts

Faced with a “prove-it” year to state lawmakers, the board of Florida’s tourism-marketing arm on Wednesday approved a 30 percent payroll cut.

A reluctant VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors agreed to slash payroll by $3.65 million, and strategic marketing by $17.8 million, with an acknowledgement the agency must do a better job of selling itself to lawmakers, particularly in the House, which sought to eliminate the public-private agency during this year’s legislative session.

VISIT FLORIDA survived in the Session — but took a 34 percent funding cut.

Board Chairman Lino Maldonado, vice president of operations for the gulf region for Wyndham Vacation Rentals North America, said there are “painful decisions ahead” as Visit Florida continues to compete against other states for tourists.

The budget reduction will require a number of staff members to be let go. Those decisions will start to be made now that the board has approved an operating budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The agency currently employees about 135 people, with an overall payroll of $12.1 million.

The cuts to marketing will mostly affect television spots seeking to attract winter and family travelers and will require the agency

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