Millions of people flock to Florida every year to vacation in hotels, motels, and dine at restaurants, but they could be taking home more than just souvenirs.
The Division of Hotels and Restaurants conducted about 55,000 fewer inspections than required by its own rules in the past year. Some say this is a dangerous number.
Nancy Detert of the Venice Tourism Committee says, "It would only take one horrible restaurant or hotel incident, and it would take a decade to get over the bad publicity for the state of Florida, so it's in our best interest to be able to offer that reassurance to the public that there's safe eating in our hotels, restaurants."
Steve Bump, a restaurant manager, says, "They really help us manage the restaurant better and keep it clean for the customer. I think of it as a good thing. A lot of times they give us pointers on things we could do differently to help us out."
The customers especially seem to appreciate the inspections. Industry representatives say the reason for fewer inspections is the cost, but they agreed to support efforts to bulk up the inspection program.
Officials hope to hire 11 additional inspectors to meet their obligations. That's going to cost taxpayers about $600,000 more a year.