Gov. Scott, Visit Florida CEO rally tourism professionals at Hollywood conference

Even though Florida enjoyed record visitor arrivals during the first half of 2017, tourism professionals know the job of attracting new and repeat visitors is an ongoing effort.

That’s why hundreds of hospitality representatives convened Tuesday for the 50th Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, for pep talks from Gov. Rick Scott and the head of Visit Florida, and to discuss new tactics for wooing more visitors.

Tourism creates thousands of jobs in Florida and more of it means more jobs, state officials said during the convention.

“We’ve added 1.4 million jobs [in six and a half years] and you’ve been a big part of it,” Scott told participants during a luncheon speech.

To that end, shoring up the future of tourism — Florida’s biggest industry — is critical to its economic success. Last year, Florida welcomed a record 112.8 million tourists. For 2017, the goal is reach 120 million visitors.

As of June, the state was half-way to achieving that goal with 60.7 million visitors, a 4.1 percent increase from the same six-month period of 2016, according to preliminary data from Visit Florida.

And even higher numbers are hoped for in 2018, Scott said.

“What do we have to do to keep this [momentum] going? ”he asked. “We have to keep marketing our state.”

When he took the job, the state’s tourism budget was $25 million and the state consistently attracted about 80 million tourists annually, Scott said. Now, with a $76 million budget that narrowly avoided drastic cuts by the Legislature for fiscal 2018, Florida draws 120 million tourists.

“I don’t want to go back to 80 million tourists,” said Scott, as he urged attendees to lobby their lawmakers to stave off possible future cuts.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to be as transparent as we can,” Scott cautioned. “We’ve got to tell everybody how we’re spending the…

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