Visit Tampa Bay hosts first Legislative Summit
October 18, 2016 by Kevin Wiatrowski
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Tourism advocates, state, local leaders review key issues ahead of 2017 legislative session
TAMPA (Oct. 17, 2016) – Visit Tampa Bay hosted its first Legislative Summit on Oct. 12, bringing together state and local elected leaders with key players in the tourism industry to discuss issues of importance in the upcoming Legislative session when legislators from the Tampa Bay area will hold leadership posts in both parties and both houses.
With a panel consisting of Roger Dow (CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Travel Association), Maryann Ferenc (Mise en Place), Thom Storke (The Florida Aquarium) and Santiago Corrada (President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay) the goal was to educate local and state politicians on the economic importance of tourism and to lobby for their support and protection in Tallahassee. Importantly, the audience at Mise en Place was a ‘who’s who” of the tourism industry including Will Seccombe, president & CEO of VISIT FLORIDA and tourism leaders from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties,
“Each and every day we are bringing people to our community that are spending money and keeping our local business afloat,” said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “We are in the business of importing money. What was amazing about this inaugural event was the depth and knowledge in the room. Every tourism voice in the room could have been selected to be one of the panelists.”
Dow, who residents in Pinellas County and commutes to Washington D.C., stressed that public investment in tourism has a direct impact on visitation and the associated economic benefits tourism brings. When Pennsylvania cut its state tourism spending by 75 percent, they saw a corresponding drop in tourism, Dow said.
“We have a great destination,” said Mary Ann Ferenc, owner of Tampa’s Mise en Place restaurant and incoming chair of VISIT FLORIDA’s Board of Director. “But it’s only great is people know about it.”
Also present were Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa, incoming leader of the House Democratic caucus and Rep. Kathleen Peters of St. Petersburg along with a representative of state Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon. Hillsborough County Commissioners Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman and Stacy White also attended, as did representatives from the Hillsborough County Tourism Development Council and from Pasco County’s tourism office.
The summit follows a Legislative session when the Legislature loosened the rules governing how counties can spend Tourist Development Tax funding – expanding the use in several Panhandle counties to include law enforcement and lifeguards, among other things.
“There is a new level of respect for tourism,” said Florida Aquarium CEO Thom Storke, who helped shape the state’s TDT law when he was chair of VISIT FLORIDA. The purpose of the tax was for promoting tourism, he said.
“We’ve got to protect the bed tax to grow the industry,” he said.
About Visit Tampa Bay
Visit Tampa Bay encourages adventurous travelers to unlock our destination’s trove of unique treasures. We are a not-for-profit corporation that works with more than 750 partners to tell the world the story of our home – the hip, urban heart of the Gulf Coast of Florida.