Florida tourism continues to grow

Posted at 12:55 PM, Aug 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-19 06:07:31-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - In a feat not done before, Florida tourism leaders say they are well on their way to accomplishing their goal of attracting 100 million visitors to the Sunshine State by 2015.

A new report released Monday says Tourism in Florida grew by 2.8 million visitors last year. That report was released by watchdog group Florida TaxWatch and VISIT FLORIDA, the state's official tourism marketing agency. The report also says in the first quarter of 2014, Florida saw 26.7 million visitors.

The growth, state leaders say, contributed to the creation of more than 75,000 new jobs (38,389 jobs directly related to tourism and 37,382 jobs in-directly related to tourism). It's estimated more than 1.1 million Floridians are employed within the tourism and hospitality industry. Visitors are also credited with pouring billions of dollars into the state and local economies.

"Florida's thriving tourism industry provides extraordinary opportunities for economic growth," said Dominic Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog. "By increasing the number of visitors to Florida, the state is on track to reach this important milestone, providing jobs to hardworking taxpayers along the way."

The benefit for locals is not just jobs.

"Florida's tourism industry is responsible for far more than lowering the tax burden for the state's residents," said Jerry D. Parrish, Ph.D., Chief Economist for Florida TaxWatch and Director of the TaxWatch Center for Competitive Florida. "Expanding tourism has a direct impact on job creation in the state, and the economic impact can be felt in many of Florida's other industries."

If the state were to see 100 million visitors it would continue to break previous attendance records, thanks in part state leaders say, to record funding of tourism promotion. During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved a $74 million budget for VISIT FLORIDA and the tourism industry. That is a $10.5 million increase from the year before and includes $5 million for medical tourism marketing and $1.3 million to promote Florida tourism to veterans and active duty military members, according to VISIT FLORIDA.