Tourism in Florida set yet another record in the first three months of the year. Records were also broken in key areas of the Sunshine State including Orlando, Tampa Bay and Bradenton. On the back of the figures, analysts believe 2017 will be the best year ever for tourism in Florida.
In mid-May, Florida released its tourism statistics for the first quarter of the year. The figures show that a total of 31.1 million tourists visited the state between January and March, a 2.5% increase on the same quarter last year. Several metro areas and counties also registered record-breaking data for tourism tax and economic impact.
More American visitors
Like 2016 before it, 2017 is the year of the domestic visitor to Florida. In the first quarter of this year, some 3.2% more Americans chose to take a holiday in Florida compared to the same period last year.
This rise in national tourism in Florida more than compensated for the slight drop in international visitors. Canadian tourists fell by 2.2% in Q1, a fact that analysts attribute to the weaker Canadian dollar.
Foreign visitors also dropped, although by just 1.8%.
The decrease in international tourism is, however, considerably lower than that experienced in Q1 2016. Canadian tourism in Florida fell by 16.8% between January and March 2016. Other international visitors dropped by 5.8% a year ago.
Tampa Bay sets new records
Tampa Bay stands out as one of the shining stars in the Florida tourism statistics during Q1. Pinellas County took US$17.5 million in bed tax (levied on holiday lets) during the three months. March with a total collection of US$7.8 million was the county’s best single month on record. Hillsborough County also performed well – bed tax collection exceeded US$3 million for each of the three months in the quarter for the first time ever.
Star for tourism in Florida
The biggest star is, however, Orlando. Statistics for Q1 are not due for release until later this year, but the metro area’s tourism authorities have reported those for 2016. Yet again, Orlando was America’s favourite holiday destination with 68.8 million visitors, up more than 2 million on 2015. The theme park capital accounts for over 60% of all visitors to Florida.
Data is available for Airbnb lets during Q1 in Orange County, home to Orlando. According to the holiday let portal, the number of guests using Airbnb services in the county in Q1 totalled 657,000, a hike of 69% on the same quarter last year.
Orlando is set for another record-breaking year in 2017, particularly as several high-profile theme parks have joined the long list of attractions. New theme parks in Orlando this year include The World of Avatar (part of Walt Disney Pandora), Universal’s Volcano Bay water park and Kraken Unleashed at Seaworld.
Bradenton expects big year
Southwest Florida also experienced an exceptional year in 2016. Bradenton reported a 2.7% rise in visitor numbers and more importantly, the economic impact of tourism rose by 7.3%. According to tourism officials, economic impact from tourism has gone up by nearly 40% in the area since 2012.
Bradenton too is expecting a busy year for tourism. The area hosts one of the world’s big sporting events, the World Rowing Championships, in September. The event will not only boost visitor figures, but raise the area’s profile as a tourist destination.
“The figures for tourism in Florida are nothing short of spectacular,” says Dies Poppeliers, Managing Director of BRIC Group. “Despite the drop in international visitors, the state continues to appeal hugely to domestic visitors, the true engine behind the growth of the tourist industry.”
BRIC Group, an investment company specialising in global real estate opportunities, offers US real estate investments including turnkey properties in Florida and Houston, and land plots in Florida. BRIC Group is also developing The Coral resort, in Northeast Brazil, a luxury beachfront resort with land and villa investment opportunities. BRIC Group has been creating wealth for its clients since 1996 and has offices in Brazil, Dubai (consulting office), Hungary, Spain and the US.
(Sources: Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald)