Skift Take

This smells more of politics than smart planning. And we would argue it isn't a good idea to get rid of one of the more talented DMO executive teams in the U.S. just when your state is strategizing how to make up for declining visitation from Canadians, UK nationals, and others.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe will resign his position following a demand by the state’s governor Rick Scott to resign.

Scott’s communication’s director said in an email Friday night that the office had not received confirmation that Seccombe would resign.

Scott and other state lawmakers were upset with Visit Florida’s spending on a marketing campaign using South Florida resident and rapper Pitbull. Today Scott sent a letter to Visit Florida Chair William Talbert [below] requesting Seccombe’s departure as well as other changes at the organization.

Apart from Seccombe, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Financial Officer Vangie Fields and Chief Marketing Officer Paul Phipps are no longer with the destination marketing organization (DMO).

Tim Declaire, Director of Global PR, told Skift: “I can confirm that two positions — CFO and CMO — were eliminated. Also, Will Seccombe did receive a letter from the Governor today outlining leadership change recommendations. In the coming weeks, he will be working with the Visit Florida Board of Directors on next steps.”

In April the governor requested an audit of the DMO following concern over the Pitbull relationship. In June that audit found that Visit Florida was doing its job. “Overall, our review of Visit Florida found an extremely sound operation with a robust accounting system and mature internal control structure,” concluded the report.

Yesterday Pitbull published on Twitter his contract with Visit Florida, which detailed how much the state paid for appearances, public statements, social media, and the video for “Sexy Beaches.”

In the first nine months of 2016, Florida saw a record number of visitors, despite Zika concerns across Miami, hurricanes, and a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub. Two weeks ago, the governor gave much of the credit to the tourism board, saying in a statement: “Visit Florida does an incredible job of marketing our state.”

The Letter

Dear Chairman Talbert:

Visit Florida and its Board have been a steadfast part of Florida’s amazing record growth in tourism over the last six years. In the first nine months of this year alone, we have welcomed over 85 million visitors and on pace to welcome 115 million visitors this year. Florida tourism is critical to our state as it serves as a vital source of state revenue and is a key driver of creating important jobs all across our state. It is imperative that Visit Florida continue its mission of promoting the state to keep this momentum going.

Visit Florida and its work to advertise our state supports our tourism industry, which is made up of hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs all across our state. Anyone who disputes that fact or argues for no longer using Visit Florida’s advertising to promote tourism here simply does not understand the business world or the nature of our economy.

The important mission of Visit Florida should not detract from the fact that every taxpayer dollar needs to be treated with great respect. We must all demand that government functions be done with both expertise and efficiency. The notion that Visit Florida spending would not be transparent to the taxpayers is just ridiculous. We must have major reforms at Visit Florida in the weeks ahead that require new leadership.

In order to ensure complete transparency of Florida tax dollars, I am requesting Visit Florida’s Board, at its next meeting on January 9th, to review all its policies and procedures regarding contracting and procurement and continue to implement the following transparency initiatives:

  • Publish online external reports detailing public spending;
  • Publish all reports that include metrics and return on investment calculations;
  • Publish employee position and salary information;
  • Publish an online organizational chart;
  • Publish all relevant audits, tax returns, financial reports and summaries;
  • Publish all statutory required reports; and
  • Publish all public expenditure details by vendor and contract with all contracts provided online.

The mission of Visit Florida is crucial to the economic growth of our state and Will Seccombe has played a major role for many years in helping Florida attract record numbers of tourists. However, the major changes outlined above require new leadership and ideas at the agency, and I believe it would be best for the future efforts of Visit Florida for Will to step down and allow new leadership to come in at this critical time.

Lastly, I appreciate Pitbull and his devotion to our great state. His willingness to help promote tourism in Florida is a great example for other entertainers to follow.

Visit Florida’s mission is imperative to the continued success of Florida’s economy and record growth in tourism, but in order to achieve that success, the organization must be run in an open and transparent manner, which will demand major reform.


Rick Scott Governor

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Tags: florida, politics, tourism

Photo credit: Will Seccombe, CEO of VisitFlorida (R) speaking at the Skift Global Forum in New York City on October 9, 2014. Seccombe reportedly agreed to resign his post today following a request by the state's governor. Skift

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