PRIVATIZE TOURISM MARKETING

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State government in Florida should be out of the tourism marketing business, says Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles. Florida's actions will be closely watched elsewhere and travel advertisers should prepare for more "privatized" state tourism organizations.

Under Gov. Chiles' program, Florida's $14 million tourism promotion program would fall more directly under private sector control through a Florida Tourism Commission made up of industry members appointed by the governor.

Forty-nine of 50 state governments now have travel promotion programs; Colorado is the exception. Budgets range from Hawaii's $34 million to Delaware's $753,000, reports the U.S. Travel Data Center. Combined state spending represents $400 million this year ($114 million earmarked for advertising).

But the states today are under pressure to cut taxes and refocus their attention and money on essential government responsibilities, such as education reform, welfare reform and criminal justice. Colorado's state travel unit was closed in 1993, for example.

In Florida, the state tourism ad budget has its own revenue source (a surcharge on rental car rates) and is not dependent on general revenues. This funding source can be carried over to the new, state-sanctioned tourism commission.

Where private groups that benefit from a program can step in to run it, why should they not pick up the burden-and benefit-of having more control? With more say over what is done and how, privately-managed state tourism agencies might find new ways to attract even more business support.

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