Visit Florida resignations rock tourism agency in wake of Pitbull scandal

Visit Florida resignations rock tourism agency in wake of Pitbull scandal

TALLAHASSEE — A leadership transition plan is in the works at Visit Florida now that three executives including Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe have resigned in the wake of the Pitbull scandal.

Visit Florida board chair Bill Talbert said he will work with Seccombe on a plan that will be presented for approval at the Jan. 10 Board of Directors meeting. Talbert said he’s “confident that the direction put in place by the Board will position Visit Florida for continued success.”

Last week Florida Governor Rick Scott called for Seccombe to step down after Visit Florida refused to publicly disclose it paid rapper Pitbull US$1 million to promote the state.

Seccombe had led the agency since 2012 after serving as its chief marketing officer for nearly five years. Visit Florida’s Chief Operating Office Vangie Fields and Chief Marketing Officer Paul Phipps have also resigned.

Scott has asked Visit Florida to begin publishing its spending, contracts, salaries, audits and other financial information. “The notion that Visit Florida spending would not be transparent to the taxpayers is just ridiculous. We must have major reforms at Visit Florida in the weeks ahead that require new leadership,” Scott said in a letter to Talbert.

The letter came one day after Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, used Twitter to make his contract with Visit Florida public. House Speaker Richard Corcoran had sued to have the contract released. Visit Florida had refused to disclose it, citing trade secrets.

Pitbull filmed a video for his song ‘Sexy Beaches’ as part of the contract and agreed to promote the hashtag #LOVEFL on his social media sites and at concerts.

The video features images of women frolicking in the surf and sand as well as pictures of iconic Florida hotels such as Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau and the pink Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach. It ends with an image of #LOVEFL written in the sand.

Legislative leaders have criticized the agreement, but Scott’s concern was more over the transparency — not the video or hiring Pitbull.

“I want to assure you that the tourism industry is stronger than ever, and I’m confident that together we can make Florida the No. 1 travel destination in the world,” said Talbert.

Get travel news right to your inbox!