• ACT NOW: Protect St. Johns County Tourism Industry

    ACT NOW: Protect St. Johns County Tourism Industry

    At 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 24, the Florida House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee released a far-reaching Proposed Committee Bill (PCB RRS2) that will be heard in the House this coming Tuesday. This is the first time we’ve seen a bill that would, in essence, destroy both VISIT FLORIDA and the county-level Tourism Development Tax (TDT), also known as “the Bed Tax,” funding model at the same time.

    VISIT FLORIDA, the state's official tourism marketing corporation serves as Florida's official source for travel planning for visitors across the globe. VISIT FLORIDA is not a government agency, but rather a not-for-profit corporation created as a public/private partnership by the Florida Legislature in 1996.

    The St. Johns County Chamber has been an ardent defender of both VISIT FLORIDA and the County’s tourism marketing efforts for many years. Consistent and sufficient funding for Visit Florida has been a St. Johns County Chamber priority in recent years. Visit Florida stepped in time and time again to help promote our tourism sector and show tourists the “Welcome Back, We’re Open” signals which provided untold millions of dollars in advertising that many have said saved our tourism sector from ruin. 

    We need you to contact your legislators.
    1. Rural counties would be required to pay 2% of Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections and non-rural counties (St Johns County) 5% of TDT collections to fund Visit Florida, approximately $70 million for 2023-26, then becomes voluntary via a vote of the governing body.
    2. Requires all County level Tourist Development Taxes levied to be reauthorized by referendum every 6 years exempting TDT collected to cover county bond obligations.
    3. Eliminates proceeds from rental car surcharge to Visit Florida.
    4. Prohibits any state appropriations to Visit Florida.
    5. Requires Visit Florida to ensure that 75 percent of all expenditures go towards activities, services, functions, and programs that directly assist state parks, state forests, and rural counties.
    6. Require VF to match monies from each county on a one-to-one basis while prohibiting any proceeds from TDT to be counted towards the match. Any co-op marketing or local DMO program participation cannot count. 
    7. Expands the ability for counties to use TDT for tourism infrastructure for transportation, sanitary sewer, solid waste, drainage, potable water, and pedestrian facilities by removing the requirements to use at least 40% of TDT for marketing as well as removing the independent professional analysis demonstrating the positive impact to tourist-related businesses in the county.
    8. The definition of rural counties which would receive 75% of the Visit Florida funding does NOT include St. Johns County. 

    Contact the St. Johns County Legislative Delegation by telephone or email to express your opposition to gutting Visit Florida and dismantling St. Johns County’s successful Tourism Development Marketing program that brings millions of dollars into our economy every year through the “Bed Tax” paid by out of state and out of County visitors. Recall after each of the hurricanes of the past 5 years, our County’s Tourism Development Office and the SJC Visitors and Convention Bureau teamed up with Visit Florida to remind tourists that St. Augustine was indeed “Open for Business”, countering the many overly sensational news stories claiming “severe damage” to the Nation’s Oldest City.

    Last year alone, the Bed Tax directly provided over $20 million to the St. Johns County economy and our Tourism Marketing efforts bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the County every year, while supporting the largest employment sector, the tourism industry. Passage of this legislation would cripple the tourism growth St. Johns County has seen post-Covid and would jeopardize thousands of tourism industry jobs. As a mid-market Florida destination, St. Johns County needs the local marketing dollars generated by the “Bed Tax” and joint ventures with Visit Florida to help us compete with the far larger Disney and Universal Studios.

    Florida Speaker Paul Renner
    (386) 446-7644
    Senator Travis Hutson
    (386) 446-7610
    Rep. Cyndi Stevenson
    (904) 823-2300
    Thank you for your help.
    Please contact Bob Porter, VP of Public Policy with any questions or for additional information.

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