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Florida on track to see 115 million visitors in 2016

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Visitors keep flocking to the Sunshine State.

State tourism officials announced Friday 57.4 million people traveled to Florida in the first half of the year. The number marks a 4.3 percent increase from the first six months of 2015.

“It’s exciting to have a record tourism number,” said Gov. Rick Scott during an event at the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. “That’s a record number. We’ve had record numbers in the last five-and-a-half years.”

Since January, more than 49.3 million domestic travelers have visited Florida. The remainder have been Canadian or other international travelers.

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism arm, estimated 27.3 million people visited Florida in the second quarter of 2016. That sum includes more than 23.6 million domestic travelers and nearly 1.06 million Canadian tourists. Tourism officials said 2.5 million overseas travelers came to Florida in the second quarter.

“The Florida tourism industry has a tremendous amount of momentum,” said Will Seccombe, president and CEO of Visit Florida.

The tourism industry has experienced year-over-year growth for the past five years. Historic visitor estimates show 82.3 million visitors came to Florida in 2010. Last year, the tourism officials estimated more than 106 million people visited Florida. The state is on pace to have 115 million visitors in 2016.

But a growing number of Zika cases could have an impact on tourism numbers.

A report by the University of Florida’s Tourism Crisis Management Initiative found more than 70 percent of potential visitors said they were concerned about the Zika virus. However, researchers found just 10 percent have actually changed their travel plans.

There are nearly 500 cases of Zika in Florida. According to the Department of Health, 28 of those cases aren’t travel related and are believed to have been transmitted by a mosquito bite. All of the local cases of Zika are thought to have been transmitted in Wynwood, a trendy arts neighborhood near Miami.

Scott said he doesn’t think the spread of the virus will have a significant impact on tourism.

“The most important thing you can do for anyone thinking about coming to our state is keep them informed,” said Scott. “They know this state knows how to deal with hurricanes, with tropical storms. We know how to deal with Zika, we’ve controlled other mosquito-borne illnesses … so they know we’re ahead of this.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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