It’s always nice to get away. No matter how much you enjoy your job, a vacation is a chance to relax with family and friends, experience new cultures and places, or check off an item on your bucket list. The wonder of Florida travel means the tourism and hospitality industry will always have a vital role in our communities, supporting local economies from Pensacola to Key West.
So, if you had the chance to improve the industry and amplify its benefits to travelers, local small businesses and residents across the state, wouldn’t you? That question and how to achieve it will surely be a topic of conversation during this week’s annual Florida Tourism Day in Tallahassee. HomeAway, a platform enabling traveling families to connect with local homeowners, businesses and attractions, looks forward to joining the effort to celebrate and enhance the rich tourism economy here.
Floridians know the benefits of this industry better than most, attracting more than 113 million visitors last year alone. National and international tourist spending in the state’s economy topped $109 billion in 2016, supporting 1.4 million jobs in the state, a number that grows each year.
But Florida didn’t become the travel destination it is today based solely on its attractions, sandy beaches and beautiful weather. The state also has an abundance of options when it comes to lodging.
Whole-home vacation rentals increase these options for travelers and groups, allowing families to visit that may not have otherwise. By connecting traveling families and homeowners, vacation rentals expand the tourism economy and enable families to take the vacation they’ve dreamed of. Furthermore, the additional lodging option generates more economic activity in areas outside of traditional hotel districts, supporting thousands of local jobs and revitalizing communities.
With vacation rentals across the state, HomeAway brings responsible travelers — and in turn critical travel and tourism dollars — to communities large and small. In fact, an economic impact report by the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association found vacation rentals generated more than $31 billion in economic activity and supported 322,000 jobs in 2013, numbers that are even greater today.
Given the state’s lively tourism economy, it’s vital to prioritize legislation that promotes economic growth and gives Florida homeowners an opportunity to responsibly participate. Smart vacation rental policies create a space for homeowners to use their property to earn money for retirement, save for education, and take care of their families. It supports Florida homeowners who have invested money and energy into improving their homes and helping travelers experience local communities.
Fortunately, the state has been considering legislation that both protects the economic benefits vacation rentals bring to the state and preserves the rights of Florida homeowners to responsibly engage in the tourism economy. Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) and Rep. Mike LaRosa (R-St. Cloud) introduced the Florida Vacation Rental Act, which establishes guardrails that prohibit local regulations dictating where and how many vacation rentals are allowed. The bill prevents patchwork regulation across the state, improving clarity and compliance for homeowners. HomeAway supports this effort and the conversation unfolding around how to create smart regulations that preserve vacation rentals as a valuable addition to the Florida economy.
Florida residents agree. A 2017 poll found that 93 percent of Floridians believe travelers should be allowed to rent accommodations other than hotels. A clear majority also said state and local governments shouldn’t have the authority to ban homeowners from renting their homes.
Florida Tourism Day is a time to recognize the value vacation rental platforms bring to communities and a reminder to support policy that benefits all groups involved.
As a company founded in the hospitality business, HomeAway remains committed to protecting vacation rentals as an option for Florida visitors, homeowners and businesses. We applaud Senator Steube and Rep. LaRosa for their continued efforts to preserve the benefits of vacation rentals. We look forward to working with all groups involved to create policies that protect this option for Floridians and continue to enhance the tourism economy upon which the state relies.
Amanda Pedigo is vice president of Government and Corporate Affairs for Expedia Inc., Washington, D.C.