Slump for Florida's tourism leveling off

Facing a grim year, Florida's tourism industry gathered in Miami Beach Monday and took comfort in the public's ingrained urge to vacation.

``The really good news for everyone in this room is travel has absolutely remained a priority,'' Will Seccombe, chief marketing officer for Florida's tourism agency, told about 600 travel executives gathered at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach for the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism.

And while the setting proved Seccombe's point -- the Fontainebleau's pool was crowded while the morning and afternoon sessions were going on in the cavernous main ballroom -- the bulk of his remarks added to the generally glum mood at the two-day conference.

With Visit Florida, the state tourism agency, losing $10 million amid state budget cuts, Seccombe sliced about $8 million from Florida's usual push to bring vacationers into the Sunshine State, leaving $9 million for the task. Visit Florida even turned to Floridians themselves to recruit tourists, urging residents to ``Share a Little Sunshine'' by inviting out-of-state loved ones to visit.

``We have less money. We have less resources,'' Seccombe said. ``I, for one, do not expect any miracle recoveries.''

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