Florida tourism rises to all-time highs


Those who vote with their feet — or their air ticket purchases — have named the Sunshine State a winner. The state racked up a record 85.9 million visitors in 2011, according to preliminary estimates by VisitFlorida, the state’s public-private agency for tourism promotion. That represents an increase of 4.4 percent over 2010 and rises above the previous record of 84.5 million, reached in 2007.
Direct travel-related employment in Florida also rose to a near record high of 1,013,100, adding more than 38,000 jobs and representing a 3.9 percent increase over 2010. Every 85 visitors translates into one job, according to experts.
The 2011 estimates break down as a 3 percent increase in domestic visitors, a 5.7 percent increase in Canadian visitors and a 16.1 percent increase in overseas visitors. For 2011, 21.5 million Floridians took an in-state pleasure trip, an increase of 12.5 percentage points. All three categories represent all-time highs.
Through November 2011, the last month reported, taxable sales on tourism/recreation rose 7.2 percent over the same period in 2010.
Florida tourism has been steadily regaining market share since January 2011, outpacing the rest of the U.S. by more than 2 percentage points. According to Smith Travel Research, room revenue in Florida for 2011 was up 10.9 percent compared to 2010, while the U.S. is only up 8.8 percent.

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