Florida tourism figures continue to reach historic highs – the Sunshine State received 97.3 million visitors in 2014. All figures for last year show increases and this avalanche of record numbers is excellent news for two key markets in Florida – property and employment.
2014 visitor figures are slightly below the Florida Governor’s target of 100 million for 2014, but still represent the highest ever and a 3.9 per cent increase on 2013. 2014 is also the fourth record-breaking year in a row for tourism in Florida.
Commenting on the figures, Governor Scott said that “Florida’s natural beauty, pristine beaches and exciting attractions continue to bring countless visitors to our state”. These visitors were overwhelmingly from the US itself with 11.5 million foreigners, a record high and up 2.6 per cent on 2013 and 3.8 million Canadians, another historic high and an increase of 2.4 per cent. The figures don’t include 20.2 million trips taken by local Floridians within the state.
The tourist industry is a major generator of income and jobs in Florida. Will Seccombe, President of Visit Florida announced that around 12 per cent of all state tax income is created by tourism. Most counties in the Sunshine State have seen increases in tourist tax levied on holiday let accommodation, producing greater income for the state.
In terms of employment, travel-related jobs are also at record levels reaching nearly 1,136,000 in 2014, up 3.6 per cent on the previous year. “Not only are visitors coming to our state at record levels, but there are also a record number of Floridians employed in our tourism industry,” Governor Scott said.
Most areas of Florida experienced increases in tourism. Official figures for Orlando aren’t available yet, but Walt Disney World recorded its highest quarterly attendance in Q4 last year and tourist tax collections have increased by double figures. In Sarasota County, hotel occupancy rate topped 70 per cent for the first time ever to reach 72 per cent. Average daily hotel rates also rose to US$159.61, a year-on-year increase of 6 per cent.
An improvement in economic conditions in the US and globally leads officials to expect more record figures for tourism in Florida this year. “The health of the Florida tourism industry is very, very strong and puts us in a solid position going into 2015,” said Will Seccombe, President of Visit Florida. He added that he believes that Florida has become increasingly attractive to more affluent visitors.
Sources: Visit Florida, Herald Tribune