VISIT FLORIDA Makes Good Business, Common Sense

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Don Fox, floridapolitics.com, December 19, 2016

At a time of year when every Floridian should be especially thankful for the arrival of tourists across the state, some of our lawmakers in Tallahassee seem to have taken on the role of the Grinch who stole Christmas.

The escalating attacks against VISIT FLORIDA … a proven marketing effort that has driven millions of additional visitors to our great State … defy common sense. And if not common sense, then certainly good business sense.

Those who say that tourism numbers would be the same in the absence of the efforts of VISIT FLORIDA are misguided. My intention here is not to school them on some of the most basic, foundational elements of business and marketing, but simply to point out to them (and the citizens who hold them ultimately accountable) that investing in tourism is a sound and important practice.

A failure to optimize tourism is a failure to drive vital revenue into the state. Strip away the incremental tax revenue generated by VISIT FLORIDA (tax revenue FAR in excess of the cost of the marketing efforts), and you are faced with one of two things: increasing taxes on Floridians, or reducing government services. What would you have? I know what I think is best, and I suspect most Floridians would agree: pull out all the stops to drive tourism, so that the tax burden on Floridians can be reduced.

Yet despite the obvious, some of our lawmakers seem to have adopted a campaign to stop VISIT FLORIDA dead in its tracks.

Despite abundant evidence of the return on investment that taxpayers have received from VISIT FLORIDA, they would, for reasons that seem more emotional than rational, strip it of funding in whole or in part, and be willing to risk declines in tax revenue driven by tourism.

Think about it: OF COURSE, the marketing of our state as a premier tourist destination increases tourism. And so, to suggest that in the absence of marketing, there would not be a reduction in tourism, is simply foolishness. Try that approach in business. Stop the promotion and marketing of your business, and only one thing happens. Business goes down.

If our legislators need a lesson in basic business, I beg them to not learn at the expense of hardworking, taxpaying Floridians.

There are elements of the VISIT FLORIDA campaign that are worth discussing in an open forum. Some people are not happy, for a variety of reasons, with a handful of the marketing tactics that have been employed (though frankly, the opposition to these ideas seem to be on emotional grounds, as opposed to an intellectually honest discussion of the business merits of those tactics). Those discussions should be carried out. But to call for a reduction in funding for VISIT FLORIDA (or worse yet, its complete dismantling), is nothing short of irresponsible.

I would respectfully ask the members of the Legislature to step back and take a sound and reasoned approach when putting forward their concerns. Their current tact is taking Florida in the wrong direction.

Don Fox is chief executive officer of Firehouse of America, LLC, in which he leads the strategic growth of Firehouse Subs, one of America’s leading fast casual restaurant brands. Under his leadership, the brand has grown to more than 1,030 restaurants in 44 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, and is recognized as one of the best franchises in the country. Fox is a restaurant industry veteran with 42 years of experience and incoming 2017 Chairman of the Board for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association

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