How a drop in tourism will impact Central Florida’s ability to draw future visitors

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — As Central Florida’s tourism industry takes a major hit, the drop in visitors will have an impact on our ability to attract future visitors.

Public-private partnerships aimed at luring in new vacationers to our area, rely on tourism development taxes. That money will drop significantly this year.

“Coronavirus

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That’s true for Experience Kissimmee, which is a travel and tourism partner based in Osceola County. County leaders sent the group a letter a few weeks ago, warning the group they won’t be receiving any additional TDT funding for this fiscal year until things improve. The letter reads:

“I am writing to formally notify you that due to the current and expected future reductions in tourist development tax collections resulting from the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we do not anticipate receiving sufficient revenue to make the payments to EK anticipated in the adopted FY20 Budget. I know you are acutely aware of the current situation and have been taking steps to reduce your expenses. I really appreciate your quick actions and partnership,” the letter states. “Since it is apparent based on the closures of our local hotels that conditions have occurred that will adversely affect the current or future TDT payments to EK, I am providing this notice of reduction pursuant to Section 3.02(A) of the Tourist Development Agreement.”

As you can see the County, including April’s distribution of the monthly and quarterly payments, will result in EK having received more than $5.8M more than is due based on the terms of Agreement and the FY20 Budget. While we anticipate the February disbursement to be positive, we know that March and April we will expect a significant reduction. We will include April’s quarterly Grants distribution in an effort to ensure you can continue to fulfill the contractual obligations EK has with our local non-profits,” the letter explained. “Beyond this, however, we will not be able to provide additional disbursement until the current situation abates and revenues stabilize. Please note, this does not impact the true-up allocation from FY19. That will be disbursed per our normal process after the Board of County Commissioners approves the Budget Amendment.”

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No one from Experience Kissimmee was available for an interview, but officials told us via email that staff hours have been cut to 32 hours a week, salaries have been slashed by 20%, and media buys have been halted, along with marketing campaigns, business travel, and trade shows.

Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.