More than 100 million tourists came to the Sunshine State last year, Gov. Rick Scott announced on Thursday.
Speaking at Epcot at Walt Disney World, Scott showcased the good news as 105 million tourists came in 2015, an increase of 6.6 percent from 2014. Almost 1.2 million Floridians work in tourism and travel-related jobs, an increase of almost 53,500 from 2014.
“I am proud to announce that Florida has surpassed our tourism goal and welcomed an historic 105 million visitors to our state in 2015,” Scott said on Thursday. “The number of travel-related jobs also reached a record high, with 1.2 million Floridians employed in the tourism industry. Tourism plays an important role in supporting our economy, and we will continue to make strategic investments in the tourism industry to keep Florida on track to becoming first for jobs.”
The governor issued a challenge to increase the number of tourists in 2016.
“With five consecutive record years for tourism, it is time to set our goal even higher, and I look forward to welcoming 115 million visitors to the Sunshine State this year," Scott said.
Will Seccombe, the president and CEO of Visit Florida, praised Scott and the Legislature and pointed towards global outreach to lure visitors to the Sunshine State.
“Five years of record-setting visitation does not happen by accident,” Seccombe said. “ It’s the direct result of a global marketing strategy focused on maximizing the economic impact of Florida tourism. Today’s announcement shows tourism marketing works and we have Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature to thank for their unparalleled leadership and support that has the Sunshine State on track to become the number one travel destination in the world.”
Most of the tourists--almost 90 million--came from the United State, an increase of 8 percent from 2014. There were 4 million Canadians who visited Florida in 2015 and 11.2 million residents of other nations came to the Sunshine State. With the bump in tourism, Florida’s airports saw an increase of more than 8 percent more traffic than in 2014. Tax revenue from tourists went up 8.6 percent from January through November 2015 (no records are available yet for December) compared to 2014 while hotel room sales increased 4.5 percent.
Scott has called for Florida to bring in $100 billion through tourism by 2020 and Visit Florida noted on Thursday they were on track to reach that goal.
Jerry Parrish, the chief economist from the Florida Chamber Foundation, said other areas of the economy benefited from the increase of tourists.
“We know that expanding the number of Florida visitors puts Floridians to work not only in the hospitality industry, but in other important Florida industries such as retail, construction, transportation and many others,” Parrish said. “In fact, almost half of the jobs created by increasing visitor numbers are in industries other than hospitality. The benefits that Florida receives also include a higher percentage of state and local taxes paid by visitors rather than by Florida families and businesses.”
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