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Arie and his brood went bowling.EXPAND
Arie and his brood went bowling.
ABC/Paul Hebert

Fort Lauderdale Tourism Bureau Paid More Than $300,000 for The Bachelor to Film in Town

In an episode promoted as "drama-packed," the Most Hated Bachelor of All Time took his 13 girlfriends to Broward County. Racecar driver Arie Luyendyk Jr. and his brood rode bicycles on the Hollywood Broadwalk, took an airboat ride in the Everglades, sailed aboard a yacht, visited the Bonnet House, and, randomly, went bowling. The glitzy, oceanfront W Fort Lauderdale played host.

The trip didn't come cheap — for the region's tourism bureau. A contract between the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau and show producer NZK Productions Inc. reveals the county agency paid $313,000 for the episode of The Bachelor. Of that, $65,000 was spent putting up the cast and crew in accommodations and $248,000 on other expenses, such as airfare, equipment shipping, and rentals.

In return, the bureau received a mention in the credits, a link on the "As Featured On" section of ABC's website, permission to release one production-approved press release, copies of B-roll footage, permission to promote the series on social media, and the privilege of selling a Bachelor-inspired package for 90 days.

"It's a highly rated show, it has six million viewers per episode, and we figured we could get a great deal of bang for the buck when six million people are watching you on prime time," says Stacey Ritter, the tourism agency's CEO. "The cost of advertising to six million people would far exceed the money we spent on The Bachelor."

New Times requested the contract after being contacted by a reader whose own request for the document was denied. Mark Burch, a Fort Lauderdale resident who watches the show with his wife, grew curious about the cost after learning that his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, shelled out half a million to be featured on The Bachelorette in July.

The visitors bureau finally gave the records to both New Times and Burch late Tuesday and told him that after further review, the county attorney had decided the documents were not exempt from public records laws after all.

Fort Lauderdale Tourism Bureau Paid More Than $300,000 for The Bachelor to Film in TownEXPAND
ABC/Paul Hebert

The Sunshine State's tourism boards have been heavily criticized in recent years for opaque deals with entertainers. The statewide agency Visit Florida found itself in a political maelstrom after refusing to disclose how much it paid Pitbull for his "Sexy Beaches" music video. Eventually, Mr. 305 himself ultimately posted the million-dollar contract on his Twitter feed after House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued the agency. Visit Florida's CEO stepped down in the dustup over "Pitbullgate," and the House tried — unsuccessfully — to kill Visit Florida, which conservatives call a waste of money.

Corcoran then took aim at county-level tourism bureaus and demanded to see their budgets. Records provided to him this past February by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is funded entirely through the resort tax, showed a $45,000 payment to Garth Brooks for concerts in 2016 and $100,000 to sponsor Tortuga Music Festival.

The contract for the episode of The Bachelor was signed in September 2017, and filming took place in October. Ritter says the tourism bureau suggested locations and activities for the show, but the production company had final approval. The episode aired this past January 29.

Burch says he was surprised a vacation spot like Fort Lauderdale would have to pay to be on the show.

"You'd think they would be begging us to come here versus us begging them to come here," he says. "I understand Richmond more... I watched that episode, and it was probably one of the worst I've seen."

But Ritter, who says there is "no question we got our money's worth," says that's not how the system works.

"I will tell you that even Coca-Cola — everybody knows Coca-Cola — they spend millions to market because the competition is fierce," she says. "The way you stay on top of mind is through marketing — spending the money to market and promote."  

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