Tourism development taxes are a vital part of our community’s economic recovery and provide the necessary resources that we use to promote our region. Now that our industry is working hard to recover from a global pandemic, it is not time our leaders took money out of this fund and put our economic recovery at risk again.

Florida Legislature heard two bills, HB 1429 / SB 2008, that would do just that by opening the door so that tourism development taxes could be diverted from their intended use.

Our region, like so many others, suffered immensely during the pandemic. The downturn in the hospitality and tourism industries during this pandemic was unprecedented.

Our efforts have been focused on the safety and wellbeing of our guests, team members and their loved ones. Among other things, we have introduced disinfection and disinfection protocols that improve our already strict hygiene and cleanliness standards. Contactless check-in and guest room entry with digital key are now used, and contactless food delivery options are the norm.

We have worked with professionals to ensure that our guests are safe on a return trip. And thanks to the hard work of our local destination marketing organization, we were able to welcome visitors back to our hotel and our community. Thanks to the careful exchange of information with local companies and visitors, the industry recovers at the beginning of spring and summer.

It is important to note that our visitors contribute a lot to the health of our local economy. You shop in our stores, eat in our restaurants and cafes, support attractions in the area, enjoy our performing and visual arts opportunities and take part in the nightlife of our region. Promotion of tourism informs people about our travel destination and attracts visitors.

Florida’s tourism industry has been hardest hit by a pandemic that paralyzed many tourist businesses. Every year we struggle to prevent our leaders from lowering tourism development taxes by reminding them that our industry creates jobs and opportunities, and is a foundation for our state’s economic health. This year we shouldn’t have to continue this struggle. Instead, our leaders should work with us to ensure that our local communities and state can continue to recover and prosper.

I urge the House and Senate to vote HB 1429 and SB 2008 to support Florida’s tourism industry instead.

Clark Hill is the general manager at the Naples Hilton