• Asia trip to promote Brevard County tourism goes $14K over budget


    BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Four Brevard County leaders went way over budget on a planned trip to Asia, and now the county is footing the bill for the rest of the trip, Channel 9's Jeff Deal learned Tuesday.

    The group spent $34,000 on the visit to Asia, but they only had a $20,000 budget.

    Tourism officials are defending the cost and Deal was there as the county commission debated whether to pick up the rest of the tab.

    Rob Varley and others from the Space Coast Office of Tourism said the $34,000 was money well spent, and they believe it's just a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money they'll eventually bring to Brevard County from the trip.

    The Singapore Airshow was one of the stops those four county leaders hit to promote tourism and economic development.

    "Look, the Chinese market, there's over 300 million Chinese with the wherewithal to travel, and we're in the forefront of that business," said Varley.

    Varley, his director of marketing, county commission chair Mary Bolin-Lewis and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast made the trip.

    On Tuesday, the four had to ask commissioners to approve the overage.

    "I'm asking these people to go back and show us the original receipts," said Commissioner Trudie Infantini.

    Infantini was the only commissioner to oppose. She said she felt Bolin-Lewis didn't need to go and felt the EDC president should have paid from her own budget.

    But Bolin-Lewis said the trip was not a vacation, saying the additional charges came from adding a booth at the airshow and paying for the EDC president.

    Ultimately, Bolin-Lewis said she believes the contacts made on the trip will actually bring more tourists and possibly more businesses from overseas.

    The director of the tourism office said even with the trip, they're actually under budget on travel for the fiscal year.

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    Asia trip to promote Brevard County tourism goes $14K over budget