TAMPA, Fla. (WTXL) -- It continues to be another record setting year for Florida’s tourism industry.
Governor Rick Scott announced this week from Busch Gardens theme park in Tampa that first quarter estimates by VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing agency, show 26.7 million visitors came to Florida between January and March of 2014; the first quarter of the year.
This is a 2% growth from the same time the year before.
The latest numbers bring optimism for members of the state’s tourism industry who are hoping to reach an all time high of 100 million annual visitors by the end of the year.
The bulk of those coming to Florida are domestic travelers. Of the 26.7 million visitors, 2.7 million are foreign guests, 1.5 million from Canada, and 4.2 million are Floridians vacationing instate.
“Experiencing the largest quarter for tourism in our state’s history, including a record number of tourism-related jobs, proves that tourism continues to be a vital force in Florida,” said Tammy Gustafson, Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. “These records also emphasize the power of tourism as a way to sustain Florida’s economic growth.”
The growing attendance, Governor Rick Scott says, means more jobs. State leaders estimate for every 85 visitors, 1 job is created. This can multiple by the thousands of employment opportunities.
“A growing tourism industry is vital to growing jobs in Florida, and creating an opportunity economy,” Governor Scott said. “We are off to a great start to reaching our goal of 100 million visitors to Florida this year.”
More visitors also means more revenue for the state.
Sales tax collection rose with growing attendance, as did the average daily room rate for hotels across the state. Occupancy rates at Florida hotels rose 2.7%.
“Florida tourism is maintaining strong momentum with all indicators up across the board for the quarter,” said Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “With occupancy, rooms sold, average daily room rate and tourism and recreation taxable sales all continuing to climb, we are well on our way to making Florida the No. 1 travel destination in the world.”
Moving forward in 2014, state leaders are hoping to continue to grow Florida’s tourism industry and reach 100 million visitors by the end of the year. In an effort to accomplish that goal, state lawmakers recently approved an increase in VISIT FLORIDA’s budget to now total nearly $74 million dollars. That funding will be used a variety of ways to promote and market the state’s tourism industry.