Gov. DeSantis signs visit Florida extension during Ocala stop

Beautiful beaches in Captiva, Florida.  (McMurray and Members of Royal Shell Real Estate)

Florida’s tourism-marketing agency can continue to plan advertising campaigns for the next five years, under a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The measure (SB 434), which was one of 11 bills signed, extends the authorization of Visit Florida from Oct. 1, 2023, to Oct. 1, 2028. 

The Senate initially pushed to extend the Visit Florida "sunset" date to Oct. 1, 2031, but some House leaders continued to question past spending by the agency and whether Florida needs to provide tax dollars to market a state filled with natural attractions and such things as theme parks. 

Visit Florida, however, has drawn praise the past few years for its marketing work amid stories against crises such as toxic algae outbreaks and the COVID-19 pandemic. In the final quarter of 2021, Florida attracted 30.9 million visitors, the second consecutive quarter of drawing more tourists than in the comparable period of 2019, which was before the coronavirus pandemic slammed into the state. First-quarter 2022 figures are expected to be released this month. 

A proposed budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year includes $50 million to fund Visit Florida’s efforts. The Legislature has not formally sent the budget to DeSantis, who has line-item veto power. The marketing agency received $80 million for the current fiscal year, which included $30 million in federal stimulus money. The highest-profile bill signed Friday was a tax package (HB 7071), which DeSantis signed during a ceremony inside a Sam’s Club in Ocala.