During Thursday’s visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the Dolphin, Gov. Rick Scott took an opportunity to highlight Florida tourism, the state’s largest industry.
In the current state budget, $74 million is set aside for VISIT FLORIDA, the quasi-governmental corporation tasked with attracting more tourists to the Sunshine State. In 2014, Florida had a record of 98.9 million visitors, who spent $73 billion overall.
As the “best tourist destination for families,” Scott cited data that shows 85 visitors support one job, saying higher tourism numbers equates to a stronger economy statewide.
Attractions like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium helped bring record tourism numbers, which Scott said makes Florida the “ultimate travel destination across the world.”
According to data from the Governor’s Office, travel-related jobs are up 4.8 percent over last year, employing 1.2 million Floridians. Also, for every dollar invested in VISIT FLORIDA, the state gets a return of $3.20. Agency numbers show more than 28 million visitors came to Florida in the first quarter of 2015, 6.2 percent higher than last year and the largest first quarter for visitation in the state’s history.
In addition to being a tourist destination that expects to welcome 800,000 visitors this year, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium rescues and rehabilitates injured animals for later release back into their natural habitat.
The facility also provides long-term care when animals cannot be released and was the setting for the successful Dolphin Tale movie and its sequel. All told, the aquarium provided Florida with an economic impact of $1.3 billion from 2012-2014.
“The animals at our facility, including the beloved Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale movies, serve as symbols of courage, perseverance, and hope, and we are proud to share their stories with the thousands of individuals who visit our Aquarium each year,” said Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates.