Airline Winners and Losers in Qatar Impasse

FC Media

Qatar Airways is the biggest loser in its dispute with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. Pictured is a view of Qatar’s A350XWB sharklet parked next to Qatar’s second A380. FC Media

Skift Take: One thing to watch is whether the move to isolate Qatar Airways will have the unintended consequence of a spillover effect that would see many of the region’s carriers face an adverse impacts on their brands.

— Dennis Schaal

With Qatar increasingly isolated from its Gulf neighbors in an escalating geopolitical crisis, the economic and financial implications are starting to emerge.

The country — which has been accused of supporting Islamist militant groups by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — relies on other Gulf states for about 20 percent of its imports and almost half of its tourists, according to Dubai-based Arqaam Capital Ltd. Billions of dollars of infrastructure projects are also at stake as it prepares to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.

“We expect the move to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar could have significant economic ramifications for its economy, but to have barely an effect on the rest of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council),” said Arqaam’s head of equity research Jaap Meijer. “We expect consumer prices in Qatar to be affected first, though economic growth and government projects should also be affected.”

Here’s a look at how the crisis could impact transport in the region:

Possible Winners: Gulf Air and Singapore Airlines Ltd, which compete with Qatar Airways on its top routes, are the main carriers that stand to benefit.

“If we also take into account the possible negative branding impact across all GCC carriers, then the real beneficiaries are Singapore Air, Lufthansa and the key local airlines from top routes such as Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Thai and Sri Lankan,” said Diogenis Papiomytis, director of aerospace at Frost & Sullivan.

Other airlines on these routes such as Kuwait Airways, Saudia and Air France-KLM are also likely to see increased demand.

Omani and Iranian ports could stand to benefit, according to Neil Davidson, senior analyst at Drewry Shipping Consultants Holdings Ltd. Existing container trade to Qatar mostly goes through the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia.

The alternative could be operating feeder vessels from hub ports in countries that aren’t part of the boycott. Kuwaiti ports are also an option but would result in a big diversion.

Potential Loser: State-owned Qatar Airways is set to be one of the biggest losers of the crisis. It operates 52 daily flights to the four Arab countries, according to data from scheduling firm OAG. About 30 percent of the carrier’s revenue could be affected, said Frost & Sullivan’s Papiomytis.

The network impact is huge; the financial impact depends on the length of closures, he said.

— With assistance from Mahmoud Habboush, Claudia Carpenter, Deena Kamel, Anthony DiPaola and Tugce Ozsoy.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Filipe Pacheco and Ahmed A Namatalla from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Hotel CEOs Push Back on Trump And 5 Other Hospitality Trends This Week

Mark McQueen  / NYUSPS

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson (right) was interviewed on stage by ABC News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis at the NYU Hospitality Industry Investment Conference on June 5. Mark McQueen / NYUSPS

Skift Take: These are the hospitality trends we were talking about this week.

— Dan Peltier

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines hospitality.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Count Stephen P. Joyce as yet another hotel CEO determined to make travel and tourism a priority for the Trump Administration: Choice Hotels CEO to Trump: Travel Rhetoric Is ‘Offensive’ and ‘Incongruent’

>>Big brand names still matter, but as consumers become more sophisticated labels are not the only marker of success: Chinese Outbound Luxury Travelers Look to Smaller Hotel Chains

>>Best Western Is Testing Voice-Activated Rooms: Like Marriott and other hotel companies, Best Western is figuring out if there’s a home for Amazon’s Alexa in the hotel guest room.

>>Hotel CEOs realize that if tourism to the U.S. drops, it could have a significant adverse impact not only on their own businesses but the industry, and the economy, as a whole: Hotel CEOs Push Back Against Trump on Travel Ban, Brand USA and Cuba

>>Yet again, Wyndham Rewards isn’t missing out on any chance to capitalize on the opportunities opening up in the pending integration of SPG with Marriott Rewards: Wyndham Partners With Caesars on Loyalty Programs

>>Like everyone else in hospitality, Wyndham finally has its own soft brand collection to boot: Wyndham Launches a New Independent Lifestyle Brand: Trademark Hotel Collection

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Trump Expected to Roll Back Cuba Policies Next Week

Andrew Harnik  / Associated Press

In this June 9, 2017 photo, President Donald Trump speaks on infrastructure at the Department of Transportation in Washington. Trump is expected to outline his new policy with Cuba next week. Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Skift Take: It isn’t a question of whether Trump will reverse Obama’s liberalization of U.S. policies toward Cuba — the issue is how far will Trump go. At risk is whether the country will revert to yesteryear where Americans can freely visit China but not Cuba 90 miles from Florida.

— Dennis Schaal

President Donald Trump is expected to outline his new policy with Cuba next week, announcing steps that could reverse some of the changes made by former President Barack Obama to open commerce and travel after a half-century standoff with the communist island.

The Trump administration has been discussing policy changes that include prohibiting business with the Cuban military while maintaining the full diplomatic relations restored by Obama. The White House has also been debating new restrictions on American leisure travel to Cuba, which has more than tripled since Obama’s 2014 announcement.

Trump is expected to announce the policy on Friday in Miami, according to a person familiar with the plan. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. The White House said the timing of the announcement had not yet been finalized.

Obama’s policy moves have led to extensive corporate investment on the island, including new, daily commercial flights, licenses for U.S. hotel operators and agricultural investment by U.S. companies. Trump will be under pressure from lawmakers and corporate interests to continue the U.S. engagement with Havana.

Tourism to Cuba remains illegal under U.S. law, but has become allowable under many circumstances. American travelers to the island must fall into one of 12 categories of justification for their travel, ranging from religious to educational activities meant to bring the traveler into contact with Cuban people.

But Obama eliminated restrictions on “people to people” travel, opening the door for tens of thousands of travelers to book their own independent trips to Cuba. Opponents of Obama’s changes said that allowed many Americans to engage in prohibited tourism on an island where the Castro government has driven exiles from their homes and businesses for decades.

The president, who was spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, has been developing the policy changes in consultation with members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Rubio said in a statement he was confident Trump would “keep his commitment on Cuba policy by making changes that are targeted and strategic and advance the Cuban people’s aspirations for economic and political liberty.”

___

AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner in Washington contributed to this report.

This article was written by Ken Thomas from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Uber Board to Discuss CEO Leave of Absence and Report on Sexual Harassment

Adam Tinworth  / Flickr.com

Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick at Uber at LeWeb Paris on December 10, 2013. The Uber board may discuss a leave of absence for the embattled CEO. Adam Tinworth / Flickr.com

Skift Take: It’s clear that Travis Kalanick, the embattled Uber co-founder and CEO, needs to go. Whether the board can push him out, given Kalanick’s stake and leverage in the company, is another question.

— Dennis Schaal

The Uber board of directors is slated to meet Sunday to discuss the possible leave of absence of co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, other management changes and what is described as an ugly or bombshell report about a rash of sexual harassment incidents at the company and its culture, according to multiple published reports.

The report, conducted by former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, has already been distributed to the board, Recode reports, and it follows the termination of dozens of Uber employees and the disciplining of others for incidents related to sexual harassment charges in recent months.

There have been a series of problems over the last year or more that have called Kalanick’s leadership of the ride-share company into question. One of the latest that Holder’s report uncovered, according to The New York Times, is that the head of Uber Asia, a close Kalanick association who was fired this week, shared medical records of a rape victim in India with Kalanick and other Uber executives.

An Uber driver in India had been convicted of raping the woman in 2015, but Uber’s boss in Asia, Eric Alexander, and other Uber executives became convinced that the driver was set up and shared her personal medical records.

It isn’t clear what the details of Holder’s report will contain or what actions the Uber board might take today, but the moment is shaping up as a critical one for Uber’s future.

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Visit Florida Gets Funding Approval And 6 Other Tourism Trends This Week

Jim Mullhaupt  / Flickr

Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida, pictured here, was named the top beach in America by Dr. Beach last week and has made investments to ensure it maintains its reputation. Jim Mullhaupt / Flickr

Skift Take: These are the tourism trends we were talking about this week.

— Dan Peltier

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines tourism.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>At long last, Florida’s tourism industry knows its fate: Visit Florida’s $76 Million Budget Gets Legislative Approval After 4-Month Battle

>>The UK is in a much-weakened position as it prepares to start Brexit negotiations: Tourism Industry Could be A Beneficiary of UK Election Chaos

>>Brand USA’s one immediate challenge: getting on the Trump administration’s good side: Interview: Brand USA CEO Counts on Congress to Reverse Trump’s Plan to Kill ItStatus Blog

>>Younger employees are more likely to add a vacation to their work travel: Time-Starved Business Travelers Are Missing the Bleisure Trend

>>Eastern European tourism is growing: Contiki’s Western Europe Tours Are Popular But Eastern Europe Is on the Rise

>>Ross’ speech seemed too good to be true: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Says Tourism and Trump’s America First Policy Can Co-Exist

>>Being named the top anything is usually exciting for any destination: Dr. Beach Top 10 List Is Great for Tourism — Sometimes Too Great

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Airlines CEOs See No Trump Slump and 5 Other Aviation Trends This Week

Mark Humphrey  / Associated Press

Foreign airline CEOs aren’t convinced that the U.S. government is hurting international travel. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Mark Humphrey / Associated Press

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines aviation.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Travelers and corporations certainly detest uncertainty and the prolonged governmental announcements about the possibility of an expanded laptop ban — will we, won’t we? — contribute to business anxiety: U.S. May Extend Laptop Ban to Flights From 71 More Airports

>>It’s amazing how resilient U.S. tourism is. Europeans flock to America during the summer, and while anecdotal evidence suggests some travelers may be altering their plans because of politics, many airlines say they’re having no trouble filling seats: Foreign Airline CEOs Say They See No Trump Slump on U.S. Routes

>>Three airline CEOs on a four-person panel — all of them except United’s Oscar Munoz — said airlines must apologize within 15 minutes for all incidents where they may be at fault. That seems fast, but the news cycle demands it. Airline CEOs Say They Have 15 Minutes to Respond to Customer Crisis Incidents

>>A private air traffic control system isn’t dangerous or untested; many countries around the world use them. Until more details are known about what it will take to implement and operate this new system in the U.S., however, you should remain skeptical about the transformative prospects of such a change: Trump’s Air Traffic Control Proposal Promises Change Without Giving Details

>>We wish British Airways had explained what happened right away. But now that we know the situation, we understand why the airline gave little information after its late-May computer failure: Human Error Caused British Airways Computer System Failure

>>The Qatar diplomatic ban is a nightmare for Qatar Airways. Its routings and market share will undoubtedly suffer in the near and medium term: Understanding the Qatar Ban and Its Implications for Qatar Airways

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First Black Chief Pilot in U.S. Retires From Southwest Airlines

Associated Press

Louis Freeman made history by becoming the first black pilot hired by a major airline in 1980. He has now retired. Associated Press

Skift Take: The color barrier for black pilots and the glass ceiling for women at U.S. airlines still exist as their ranks are way below their representation in the U.S. population. Aid to offset the high cost of pilot training would be one way to make the cockpit more diverse.

— Dennis Schaal

Nobody at Southwest told Louis Freeman he would be the first black pilot in the airline’s history when he was hired in 1980.

“It never occurred to me,” Freeman says, “but when I got here I was the only pilot of color — it didn’t take long to figure out.”

Freeman went on to become the first black chief pilot — a management job — at a major U.S. airline. His most memorable flight carried the body of civil rights icon Rosa Parks to her final resting place. The NAACP had asked the airline to put together an African-American crew.

Freeman made his last flight as a Southwest Airlines captain on Thursday, a few days before turning 65, the federal retirement age for airline pilots.

As he strode toward the gate at Dallas Love Field, Freeman donned his captain’s cap for the last time and reminisced about joining Southwest after six years flying for the Air Force.

On Freeman’s first flight as co-pilot, he had a moment of panic when the captain gave him a routine command. The weight of being an airline pilot had suddenly hit him. It went beyond that first flight.

“I put a whole lot of pressure on myself because I had to get it right,” Freeman says. “I had to be perfect because I wanted them to hire more of us.”

The color barrier in airline cockpits wasn’t broken until the mid-1960s. Southwest was less than a decade old when Freeman joined and had just 20 planes and fewer than 200 pilots.

Southwest didn’t immediately say how many of its current pilots are black. Nationally, it’s 3 percent, according to the Labor Department. Blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population.

“It used to be 1 percent. It has increased, but it’s been awfully slow,” Freeman says. Part of the problem, he says, is the high cost of learning and gaining the required 1,500 hours of flight experience to qualify as a co-pilot for a small regional airline.

Freeman believes that signing bonuses, better pay and help with training costs will address the pilot shortage and help raise the number of black pilots.

Maybe Christopher Goods of Frisco, Texas, will be one of them. As Freeman talked to a reporter at Love Field, the 10-year-old stopped to shake his hand. Freeman chatted briefly with the boy and waved to his parents.

“That kind of thing happens all the time,” Freeman said, “because young black kids, they don’t see black pilots very often.”

Freeman said he never had problems with white pilots, but some passengers seemed surprised to see him.

Particularly if the co-pilot was a woman, Freeman liked to position her where passengers boarding the plane would see her, and he would hang back near the cockpit door.

“They’re looking for some older white guy to make sure he’s keeping her out of trouble,” Freeman said. “When they turned to look, there’s big old me standing there, grinning. You should have seen the looks. To me it was a game.”

In 1992, Southwest named Freeman its chief pilot in Chicago — the first black to hold that job at any major U.S. airline. It’s a management job that meant fewer flights for Freeman, “but I got to use my brain for other stuff.”

In 2005, Freeman flew the plane that carried the body of Parks, the black woman who in 1955 refused an order to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white passenger, an act that became a touchstone of the civil rights movement. He took his daughter and son on the trip to impress upon them the importance of Parks’ act.

Freeman’s son may keep up the family’s aviation tradition — he is a flight instructor gaining flight hours until he can apply for an airline job.

___

This article was written by David Koenig from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Trivago Is Focused on Growth and 3 Other Digital Trends This Week

Stephen McCarthy  / Flickr

Trivago CFO Axel Hefer appeared at the Collision conference in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 3, 2017. Stephen McCarthy / Flickr

Skift Take: These are the digital trends we were talking about this week.

— Andrew Sheivachman

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines digital trends.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Apple’s annual gathering of mobile app makers revealed that the company is enhancing its voice-activated translation tools. That perked up our ears. But Siri’s still not as fast as many travelers would like: Apple Talks Up Enhancements to Its Translation and Mapping Tools

>>Trivago is about 12 years old but has the attitude of a startup because the company’s managing directors believe this is still the beginning of the beginning of Trivago’s growth. Reduce advertising to focus on profitability? Forget about it — there are too many markets to conquer: Trivago Will Focus on Growth Over Profitability for Years to Come, CFO Says

>>Points is trying to diversify beyond being the world’s largest reseller of airlines and hotels points. But this loyalty tech company needs a little more mojo if it wants to produce truly game-changing products: Points International Aims to Upgrade Airline and Hotel Loyalty Programs

>>Sabre argues that it would be self-harming for U.S.-based airlines to copy the surcharges that European airlines like Lufthansa and British Airways are adding on bookings processed outside of their own networks. Perhaps. But airlines often have views widely different than Sabre’s: Sabre Predicts U.S. Airlines Won’t Level Booking Surcharges

 

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Airbus is Considering Adding Winglets to Boost A380 Efficiency

Bloomberg

Qatar Airways is a relatively small A380 customer, with only eight aircraft. Airbus is trying to make the aircraft more efficient to attract customers. Bloomberg

Airbus SE’s A380 superjumbo may sprout extended wings as the European manufacturer intensifies studies into the addition of curved extensions aimed at reducing drag and boosting efficiency.

The so-called winglets, which on the A380 would each measure as much as 5 meters (16-feet), could reduce fuel burn by up to 4 percent by dissipating the vortexes of rapidly spinning air created by the plane’s wings.

Airbus’s commercial aircraft chief Fabrice Bregier said Friday there’s a good chance that the company will opt to upgrade the smaller wingtip fences currently fitted on the A380. The switch, together with improved engine efficiencies, could help win orders while avoiding the greater expense of a Neo upgrade featuring new turbines and changes to the double-decker’s airframe.

“We will not launch an A380neo, there’s no business case now to do that, this is absolutely clear,” Bregier said. “But it doesn’t prevent us from looking at what could be done to improve the performance of the aircraft. So having a little bit more efficiency from the engines is clearly an option, and looking at whether we could bring new winglets is also probably a good possibility.”

Adding the extensions would require only minor modifications to the A380’s wings, with no need to strengthen the center box where they join to the plane’s fuselage, Bregier said in an interview at Airbus’s headquarters in Toulouse, France. That was a cost the company sustained when adding winglets to its A320-series single-aisle planes.

Emirates Interest

Enhancements to the A380 could help lure buyers after the world’s biggest passenger plane drew an order blank last year, and Airbus will only go ahead with the winglets upgrade if there is commercial interest, Bregier said.

Emirates, the biggest superjumbo customer, is in early talks over a deal for 20 more A380s, people familiar with the discussions said this week. The Dubai carrier told Bloomberg that while it has no plans for a purchase right now, it regularly engages with manufacturers on “product updates and enhancement.”

Didier Evrard, Airbus’s commercial programs chief, said studies into the winglets are progressing and stem from technological advancements as well as the need to make the A380 more efficient. “Ten or 15 years ago we were not able to design winglets with the right balance or drag,” he said, adding that the existing wingtips “are not the most optimal part of the A380.”

The model was formally launched in December 2000, had its first flight in 2005, and entered commercial service with Singapore Airlines Ltd. in 2007.

Even a 1 percent fuel saving would be significant for the superjumbo, which carries 200 metric tons of kerosene for a typical long-haul flight, according to Evrard, who on Monday said Airbus would need to consider slowing the A380 build rate to less than one jet a month without new contracts this year.

Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, which is supplying engines for the outstanding A380s from existing Emirates orders, could provide range and fuel-burn improvements for the Trent 900 turbine that it makes for the model. It referred questions about potential upgrades to Airbus.

As part of its push to make the superjumbo more attractive to airlines Airbus has also devised half a dozen cabin modifications in order to accommodate more than 80 additional seats. The changes include removing an upper-deck stowage area, re-positioning the main staircase and moving to an 11-abreast layout on the main deck.

–With assistance from Benjamin Katz

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Christopher Jasper from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Visit Florida’s $76 Million Budget Gets Legislative Approval After 4-Month Battle

Visit Clearwater Florida

Visit Florida’s final budget of $76 million was approved on Friday and heads to the governor for a signature. Pictured are children playing on a beach in Clearwater, Florida. Visit Clearwater Florida

Skift Take: At long last, Florida’s tourism industry knows its fate. While Visit Florida will have enough funding to keep the lights on in the coming year, it faces a litany of new procedures and restrictions that will likely send reverberations to other state capitals across the U.S.

— Dan Peltier

Visit Florida will survive another year to market the state’s destinations, from the Florida panhandle to Key West, after one of the most high-profile destination marketing funding battles in recent memory came to close on Friday.

The Florida Legislature approved on Friday afternoon a $76 million budget for Visit Florida’s for fiscal 2018 after a three-day special session in the Florida House and Senate.

That funding level is the same as fiscal 2017, although the governor had initially proposed a $100 million budget.

The special session followed a four-month long battle — which at one point involved a proposal to fund Florida’s statewide tourism board at $25 million — that had the most visited U.S. state’s tourism industry on edge.

Some state politicians said funding cuts would have put thousands of state jobs at risk and, if funding cuts had been approved, would have taken Florida from having the second-highest tourism budget in the U.S. to the seventh highest.

The debate grew out of Miami rapper Pitbull’s controversial $1 million contract with Visit Florida last year, and criticism that the organization operated with a lack of transparency.

Some of those transparency concerns have been addressed. For example, any contract worth $750,000 or more is subject to review by the Florida legislature.

Governor Rick Scott had originally called for a $100 million budget for Visit Florida earlier this year. But after some horse-trading, Florida House speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate president Joe Negron and the governor announced June 2 that they’d agreed on a $76 million budget.

The bill, like its original version in the regular session, now heads to the governor’s desk for a signature. The bill is set to take effect on July 1 and Peter Schorsch, the publisher of news site FloridaPolitics.com, said that the governor is expected to sign the bill before the July 1 deadline “but not immediately.”

Unlike last month when the fate of Visit Florida also rested in Scott’s hands, the governor made an appearance in both the House and Senate chambers on Friday to show his support and was present to applaud when both chambers’ bills, and the final bill, passed.

So, this time the governor seems on board with the Florida House and Senate’s decision to fund Visit Florida at $76 million — which is how much funding it received this year.

But there are some hefty caveats that come with that pot of gold.

Namely, Visit Florida’s funding is tied to a one-to-one match of all public and private contributions it receives and all contracts worth $750,000 or more are subject to approval by the Florida legislature.

“Visit Florida themselves conceded that they’ve had some concerns about accountability in their case,” said Florida state representative Paul Renner on the House floor on Thursday.

Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson, who was appointed in January, issued a statement this afternoon that called the special session’s results a “huge win” for Visit Florida and thanked the governor for his support.

“Over the past few months, the Governor has traveled the state discussing the importance of tourism, and because of his efforts and those of our entire industry, we will be able to continue to attract record numbers of visitors to our state.”

“Over the past few months, the Governor has traveled the state discussing the importance of tourism, and because of his efforts and those of our entire industry, we will be able to continue to attract record numbers of visitors to our state,” said Lawson, in a statement.

“Today’s victory will allow us to continue working with our industry partners to market Florida as a global destination and help us reach our goal of 120 million visitors,” he said.

Some highlights from the bill include:

  • Visit Florida’s funding is tied to a one-to-one match of all public and private contributions it receives. Public contributions include all state appropriations to the organization. Private contribution matches can come from direct cash contributions, fees for services, cooperative advertising and in-kind contributions.
  • If Visit Florida fails to meet its one-to-one match requirements it must revert all unmatched public contributions to the state treasury by June 30 of each fiscal year.
  • Any contract worth $750,000 or more is subject to review by the Florida legislature. If the chair and vice chair of the Legislative Budget Commission, or the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, advise Visit Florida in writing that a contract is contrary to legislative policy and intent, Visit Florida may not execute the contract. Visit Florida also can’t enter into multiple related contracts to avoid this requirement.
  • Visit Florida’s executed contracts must be publicized on its website and all contracts of $500,000 or more must be publicized on its website for review at least 14 days before its execution.
  • Visit Florida employees, including the president and CEO, may not receive public compensation that exceeds the salary and benefits authorized to be paid to the governor. Any public payments of performance bonuses or severance pay to a Visit Florida employee are prohibited unless specifically authorized by law. Lawson’s salary, for example, is currently $175,000 while former CEO Will Seccombe’s salary was $293,000.
  • Visit Florida can’t accept gifts from other destination marketing organizations.
  • Lodging expenses for any Visit Florida employee on business trips can’t exceed $150 per day.

Florida State Senator Jack Latvala, who sponsored the Senate’s version of the bill, said the bill includes an important provision that was left out of the original bill which allows tourism boards across the state “to still be in the game in the local communities.”

“One of the objections I had to the House bill from the first day that we received it was the fact that it precluded the ability of local tourism development councils and local tourism agencies who derive their revenue from bed taxes collected in accommodations from tourists,” said Latvala on the Senate floor on Friday.

“This precluded those from being matched in the expenditures of Visit Florida,” he said. Visit Florida is set up now in the bill as having every dollar has to be matched before it can be spent. This will once again allow local tourist development councils to have their funds matched and this will open up a very important source of money for Visit Florida and especially in smaller and medium sized communities.”

While Visit Florida and the state’s entire tourism industry is likely breathing much easier after its funding escaped the chopping block, it still has its work cut out for it in the year ahead with new procedures to follow and more potential challenges to its funding in coming years.

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