Since 2009, Florida has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors to the Sunshine State, and has had record tourism numbers. A new study by a non-partisan watchdog group shows Florida may now also be on track to meeting a big milestone: attracting 100 million visitors by 2015.
Will Seccombe is the head of Florida’s tourism agency, Visit Florida. He says there’s no question in his mind that the industry is on a steady upswing—as outlined in a report by Florida TaxWatch.
“We’re coming off of three consecutive record years of visitation. The first half of 2014 looks like it’s going to continue to be a very, very strong year for Florida tourism,” said Seccombe. “The first quarter we saw more visitors to the state of Florida than we’ve ever seen a three month stretch. And, as we look at hotel room occupancies through the first six months, total room revenue is up over ten-percent. So, the Florida tourism industry continues to have a tremendous amount of momentum.”
He says the report called “Unpacking the Benefits of Florida Tourism: Quantifying the Jobs Created by Increased Tourism Industry” also shows the growing economic impact of tourism, which will in turn help Visit Florida meet its 100 million visitor goal.
“Every 85 visitors to the state creates one new Florida job, and I’m encouraged to see the preliminary work that was done by Florida TaxWatch said ‘what would 100 million visitors mean to the state if 121,000 new visitors with an average income of over $43,000 that we’re well on our way to meeting and exceeding that goal,” he added.
And, Florida TaxWatch’s Chief Economist Jerry Parrish says an increase of about three-million out-of-state visitors to Florida alone in 2013 led to the creation of more than 75,000 jobs. He adds tourism expansion also helps to reduce the tax burden on Florida residents.
“What that makes possible is things, like the Tax Holiday we had this past weekend, the nearly $500 million tax break the more recent Legislature gave to Florida citizens,” said Parrish.
Parrish says a big help is if the state continues to invest in the tourism industry because private businesses then follow suit. Visit Florida received about $75 million in this year’s budget.
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