The Florida tourism industry fared well in the 2024 state legislative session, thanks in part to competent representation,” Samantha Padgett, vice president of government relations and general counsel for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA), told SanCap Chamber and FRLA members at the Tuesday, March 19, SanCap Chamber business luncheon at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort in Fort Myers.
“I will try to be as honest and blatant as I can,” Padgett said. “I will say you are very lucky. You are very well-represented in this area of the state. Some of the best advocates for the tourist industry for everything you do every day to serve your community, you have the best representatives.”
She presented a scorecard demonstrating the legislative passage of most FRLA-supported bills related to tourism. They include increased oversee of vacation rental and food delivery platforms to protect resorts, traditional vacation rentals, and restaurants.
Padgett commended the approved $80 million funding of Visit Florida and the continuation of tourist development taxes for purposes they are intended.
“It is our responsibility as business owners and as the hospitality industry to tell our elected officials why is it important to do that,” Padgett said. “Why should you take money from general revenue to fund Visit Florida? Why should we protect tourist development tax and maintain funds and dedicate them to the promotion and marketing of tourism?… We are the engine for Florida’s economy…. We constantly need to be responsible for educating all our officials.”
“Samantha is the most engaging government relations leader we have,” said John Lai, SanCap Chamber president and CEO. “She also explained the benefits of a bill loosening employment restrictions for 16- and 17-year-olds – a huge help in the current difficult labor market as our island hotels and restaurants reopen. We are finding that allowing young adults to work additional hours is providing opportunities to learn valuable skills and earn money while preparing for life after high school.”
Lai also recognized elected officials attending the luncheon, presenting Florida Rep. Adam Botana with an encased brick from the Sanibel lighthouse keepers’ buildings destroyed by Hurricane Ian, recognizing him for his role in supporting the islands’ comeback. He also thanked outgoing chamber board president Calli Johnson for her two years of leadership during storm recovery.
The next chamber event will take place April 17 – Islands Night at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. The Chamber Annual Meeting is scheduled for May 15, time and place to be announced.
The SanCap Chamber is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. The Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents, and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. Its website,, receives over 1.3 million visits per year. For more information about the chamber, visit or contact John Lai, president and CEO, at 239-472-2348 or [email protected].