State Funding Cuts For Visit Florida Could Mean Fewer International Tourists In Jacksonville

May 8, 2017

Kicking off National Travel and Tourism Week at City Hall are (L-R) Visit Jacksonville President and CEO Paul Astleford, Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer and Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown
Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT Public Broadcasting

In observance of National Travel and Tourism Week, Northeast Florida officials are celebrating the tourism industry as an economic engine.

According to tourism marketer — Visit Jacksonville and the Beaches — Duval County plays host to 16,000 out-of-town visitors every day.  The economic impact from this is around $3.2 billion a year.

Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer says that’s why it’s important for people who live here to also do their part.

“When you see someone walking down the street who doesn’t know how to find the nearest restaurant or whatever, reach out to them,” she said.  “Show them how friendly we are and what a wonderful city we live in."

Boyer said with the nation’s largest urban park system and miles of shoreline, selling Northeast Florida to outsiders isn’t that hard. But deep cuts in next year’s budget for state tourism marketer Visit Florida could mean fewer international tourists coming to the First Coast.

Visit Jacksonville President Paul Astleford said the city’s tourism agency doesn’t get any direct state funding. It does, however, get help promoting the region overseas.

“They were really focusing on Northeast Florida and doing co-op advertising programs in places we would never be able to afford.  A lot in the U.K., Germany, Brazil," he said.

Unfortunately, Astleford said, Florida’s loss is another state’s gain.

“I know that Georgia is kind of laughing right now," he said. "But I would say all of the states that are surrounding Florida are looking at what is happening here and how they can take advantage of it.”

Astleford said the state’s promotional campaigns have resulted in more tourists coming to Northeast Florida, particularly from Brazil.

Contact reporter Cyd Hoskinson at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 or on Twitter @cydwjctnews.