Florida welcomed a record number of tourists to the state during the first nine months of 2017, according to the latest estimates from the state tourism agency.
VISIT FLORIDA estimated approximately 88.2 million people came to the Sunshine State this year, an increase from the 85.4 million visitors who came to Florida during the same period last year -- which ends up being a climb of about 3.3 percent.
The majority of the state’s visitors were domestic while nearly 8 million came from overseas. Canadians accounted for 2.7 million visitors.
Around 27.9 million visitors traveled to Florida during the third quarter (from July to September), an increase of over three percent from the same period in 2016.
Like the overall numbers, the majority of visitors -- 24.9 million -- were domestic while 2.9 million came from overseas. Canadian visitors accounted for 428,000 of the total number of tourists coming to the Sunshine State.
Tourism is one of the biggest boosts to Florida’s economy since Florida is home to many beach cities and towns. The Sunshine State has regularly welcomed over 100 million visitors to the state since 2015, the first time ever that Florida broke the 100 million visitor mark.
State tourism officials said the numbers were a strong indicator Florida was on the right track to be the top dog in international tourism numbers.
“Back-to-back-to-back record quarters in the first nine months of this year show the Florida tourism industry has great momentum,” said Ken Lawson, president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA in a statement. “VISIT FLORIDA will not rest on our laurels, but will continue to be at the forefront of creating leading-edge, original marketing programs for our industry partners so that together we can make Florida the number one vacation destination in the world.”
Fears of declining tourism statistics reared their head in September, after Hurricane Irma ravaged most of the state with heavy rainfall and high speed winds. Irma caused extensive damage to Florida, with some estimates saying the state incurred $50 billion in damage from the storm.
Pushing tourism has been a top priority for Scott since he first took office in 2010, but the state’s tourism agency almost faced the ax earlier this year when House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, tried to gut it significantly.
In the end, Corcoran made nice with VISIT FLORIDA, and state lawmakers carved out $76 million to keep the agency alive.
Gov. Rick Scott, who made the announcement in Miami Monday, gave VISIT FLORIDA a hat tip for its work to continue bringing tourists to the Sunshine State.
“Florida has had three record quarters in 2017, which would not be possible without our relentless work to market Florida as the top tourism destination,” Scott said. “This includes VISIT FLORIDA’s aggressive marketing efforts to make sure families across the world knew that Florida was open for tourism following Hurricane Irma.”
Scott said he plans to work with lawmakers to invest $100 million for the agency during this year’s legislative session, which begins in January.