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Visitors Flock, Despite Zika, Matthew, Hermine And Pulse

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Two hurricanes, a Zika outbreak and the nation’s worst mass shooting aren’t putting a dent in Florida’s biggest industry.

Governor Rick Scott is bragging about a record-breaking 85 million visitors in the first nine months of the year, a 5.5 percent increase over last year. Visit Florida senior research manager Vicki Allen says better air service and other factors helped soften the economic blow.

“So a lot of the news that hit this summer hit after they were planning their trip. But I think gas prices are low and people just wanted to travel. That and we have done some great marketing.”

Scott says the preliminary figures suggest Florida is on target for reaching a goal of 115 million visitors by the end of the year. Domestic tourism increased 5.8 percent in the third quarter, but international travel rose 0.9 percent. Experts say fewer Canadians are coming to Florida because of poor exchange rates.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.