The three-month period ending in September brought almost 23 million visitors to Florida. That's the highest number ever for a third quarter.
The state is on pace to welcome about 95 million tourists in 2013. That would be a record, but shy of the 100-million goal the governor’s office was hoping for this year.
And it’s not just about the theme parks. Many visitors are hitting Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach from international destinations.
“Last year, we had visitors from over 184 different countries, and they’re very important because they stay longer and they spend more,” said Visit Florida president and CEO Will Seccombe. “Those international visitors are extraordinarily important to all of South Florida but really all the state as well.”
Seccombe says more marketing money is being devoted to draw international visitors, since our domestic tourism business is strong.
Why the jump? Besides the obvious improvement in the economy, Seccombe says tourism marketing has increased at the state and local level.
850 miles of beaches don't hurt, either.
“There are more people visiting the state of Florida today than live in twelve U.S. states, and those visitors contribute 23 percent of the state’s sales tax collections,” Seccombe said. “While they’re here, they’re creating jobs for Floridians, and they’re putting a ton of money into the economy.”
Seccombe calls tourism the single biggest economic driver in Florida, enabling Floridians to avoid paying state income tax.
All of those tourists also mean record high employment numbers in the hospitality industry. More than a million Floridians do some sort of work related to tourism.