TAMPA (FOX 13) - Florida's marketing agency 'Visit Florida' has been under fire from House Republican leaders for controversial promotional deals, including paying rapper Pitbull a million tax dollars to tout the state. Now Visit Florida is facing controversy yet again for signing a $14,000 contract to encourage tourists from Syria and other countries in the Middle East to visit Florida.
Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism, and has been caught up in a protracted civil war involving ISIS. Governor Rick Scott has also criticized the Syrian refugee program under the Obama administration that sought to relocate Syrians in Florida. Visitors from Syria are also temporarily banned from traveling to the United States under President Donald Trump's travel order, though it is currently being challenged in court.
The Naples Daily News first pointed out the provision of the contract with a German marketing firm that targets travelers from Syria. A Visit Florida spokesman said that the reference to Syria was an error, and the contract was changed after this was brought to their attention.
This year, Governor Scott requested $100 million for Visit Florida. The legislature scaled that back to $25 million.