Florida tourism officials expect to meet 100 million visitor goal in 2015

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Florida’s tourism industry is humming along quite nicely. An interim report released Monday indicates Visit Florida should meet a goal of 100 million annual visitors in 2015. A report commissioned by the public-private partnership for tourism marketing indicate that the industry hosted a record number of visitors in the first quarter of this year and preliminary second quarter numbers are up compared to a year ago.

“There is no question the tourism industry in the state of Florida has a tremendous amount of momentum. We’re coming off of three consecutive record years of visitation and the first half of 2014 looks like it’s going to continue to be a very strong year for Florida tourism,” said  Will Seccombe, the CEO for Visit Florida.

About 94.7 million visitors came to Florida in 2013, which represented an increase of 3.5 percent. Seccombe said first quarter numbers for 2014 showed a 2 percent increase in visitors and for the first six months of the year hotel room reservations are up over 10 percent.

Seccombe attributes the steady increase to increased funding by the state and industry that enabled Visit Florida to broaden its marketing footprint beyond traditional markets.  In recent years Visit Florida launched campaigns out west in cities likes Houston and Dallas, significantly increased advertising in international markets and targeted families not “tethered to the traditional school calendar.”

“I can tell you that with the best tourism product in the world, the fact that we have the ability to market and be more aggressive in marketing on a year-round basis sets us up well,” said Seccombe.

Officials estimate that more than 1.1 million Floridians are employed within the tourism and hospitality industry. Economists calculate that every 85 tourists support or create a job and about 23 percent of sales tax collections are paid by tourists.

In the current fiscal year the state appropriated $74 million of Visit Florida’s 212 million budget. The public-private partnership paid TaxWatch $50,000 for an interim report on a goal of drawing 100 million visitors to the Sunshine State in 2015.

The report found that since the beginning of 2013, Florida has added 38,000 tourism-related jobs and another 37,000 non-tourism jobs due to the increased number of visitors to the state