Orange County prepares to give Visit Orlando a financial 'haircut'
If unchanged, Visit Orlando's 30% share to Tourist Development Tax revenue could reach $125 million in 2026.
Orange County commissioners decided Tuesday that they'll give their tourism marketing agency -- Visit Orlando -- a budgetary "haircut."
The destination marketing organization, or DMO, -- a government-funded nonprofit dating back to 1983 -- receives 30% of the county's revenues from the Tourist Development Tax. The TDT is a 6% tax on hotel rooms and short-term rentals that comes statutory restrictions on how it came be spent.
That 30% share could reach $125 million in 2026, according to Visit Orlando.
More than a dozen business leaders and workers spoke in support of Visit Orlando. Its board chair Terry Prather and CEO and President Casandra Matej emphasized its economic importance to the county and the need to stay competitive with other tourist destinations.
The increased budget has "served our community well," Prather said, adding it's different from the marketing by major theme parks.
"Visit Orlando is the only organization that promotes and supports the entire destination," he said. "And we do an exceptional job. We have a proven model that works."
Matej said 75% of DMO's nationwide receive 30% or more of their region's tourism tax revenue. She said cuts would affect the frequency of advertising, its global reach, its audiences and its attention-grabbing "wow" factor.
Commissioners said they want to reduce Visit Orlando's share of TDT funding as they focus on other needs, including those of workers in the tourist industry.
Visit Orlando's share increased following changes to its contract in 2019.
The actual amount has risen from $57.5 million in the fiscal year beginning October 2018 to about $108 million this fiscal year, according to a county chart.
Mayor Jerry Demings earlier recommended requiring that Visit Orlando use $10 million of its funding for sports marketing.
At the Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Mayra Uribe suggested a funding range of $70 million to $80 million. But the commission did not settle on an amount.
Demings said staff will work on the details.
"Let us, on behalf of the board, begin to have that conversation with Visit Orlando, about what that looks like," he said. "OK, so we understand the impact on tourism promotion, on their operations, and then we'll come back with a plan."
TDT funding options for Camping World Stadium, the Amway Center and other venues will also come back for discussion.