Both chambers of the Florida Legislature passed their budgets last week, and their proposals include some goodies for the tourism industry.

The Florida House of Representatives, for instance, would give $71.3 million to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-promotion agency.

Visit Florida would have to spend $1 million of that money marketing the state as a permanent home for veterans and another $300,000 researching the educational and employment needs of veterans.

The Florida Senate’s spending plan would give Visit Florida even more: $75 million. The agency would have to spend at least $5 million of that promoting “medical tourism,” plus $1.3 million on veterans marketing and research.

Both proposals are less than the $100 million that Gov. Rick Scott proposed for tourism promotion.

Beyond travel advertising, both the House and Senate budgets also authorize a 52,000-square-foot building for the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. The $17 million building would have offices, classrooms and multipurpose space.

The Senate budget also includes a $1.5 million earmark for the Florida Sports Foundation, about $1 million of which would likely be used on the organization’s grant program.

The foundation provides grants to attract major events, such as NCAA championship games, and regional ones, such as the 2015 “World Maxibasketball Championships,” which will be held in August 2015 at Walt Disney World.

Money for medical tourism

The money that Visit Florida would have to use promoting medical tourism is tied to legislation moving through Tallahassee this year.

The bills (HB 1223 and SB 1150) would require both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic-development agency, to market the state as a destination for consumers who are traveling to receive medical treatment.

Among other provisions, the measure would direct Visit Florida to promote “national and international awareness” of the qualifications, scope of services and specialized expertise of health-care providers operating in Florida.

The agency also would have to market medical conferences, training and other business events aimed at drawing practitioners to the state. And it would have to devise an initiative to “showcase” selected providers that offered bundled health-care packages to travelers.

Among those lobbying for the bill are Orlando Health, the North Broward Health District in South Florida and trade groups such as the Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Medical Association.

(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Photo Credit: A life-guard station on Miami's South Beach. Ed Schipul / Flickr