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Beach businesses concerned that funding for Florida's tourism agency could run out soon

Posted at 10:37 AM, Apr 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-26 10:37:50-04

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The money for Florida's tourism agency could soon be running out. State lawmakers have proposed phasing out the funding for Visit Florida, which creates ads for television and other media that air in out-of-state markets, promoting the Sunshine State as a top vacation destination.

Leaders in the state House have criticized Visit Florida's spending in the past, including more than $11 million in 2017 to sponsor a cooking show featuring celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and another $1 million for a promotion contract with South Florida rapper Pitbull.

But some businesses in Fort Myers Beach said that every dollar used to promote Florida as a vacation spot is money well-spent, especially after 2018's massive fish kills along the beach, brought about by red tide.

"We are one of the front-line places that Visit Florida benefits," said Justin Paulauskis, a tour boat captain at Fish Tale Marina. "Visit Florida spreads the news that we're not a state in decay. Our water quality is getting better, and it's still a place where families can come and vacation."

Unless the state House approves a Senate bill to extend Visit Florida's funding after October 1, the marketing agency's money will run out at the end of September.