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Tourism Remains Strong in Florida

Tourism Remains Strong in Florida

Visit Florida CEO sees no slowdown in tourism after record-breaking quarter

Full Article by Emon Reiser here - August 3, 2017 - Jacksonville Business Journal

Warnings about the return of the Zika virus, a potentially strong hurricane season and other threats to Florida's tourism sector haven't stopped visitors from coming to the Sunshine State.  Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson says that after 31.1 million tourists came to Florida in the first quarter of 2017 — the highest number of quarterly visitors in the state's history — he "hasn't seen a slowdown at all" and predicts positive results for the second quarter. The numbers will be out later this month.  

"I've been ... watching the trends over the last several weeks, [and] I'm very pleased and excited," Lawson told the South Florida Business Journal.

That's good news for one of Southeast Florida's most powerful economic engines as global forces seemed to rally against it. The strong U.S. dollar has impacted visitation from Europe and Canada, while economic and political turmoil in Brazil and Latin America means fewer people from those countries are flying to Miami International Airport by the hundreds of thousands.

The Big Number: $3,577

Brazilian travelers stay in Florida an average of 10.7 nights and each trip party spends an average of $3,577. Because of economic and political turmoil in the country, 600,000 fewer visitors came to Miami-Dade County last year.

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that turned visitors away from Miami's Wynwood last year, was sure to make a comeback as summer arrived and an unpredictable hurricane season crept up on the region. But Southeast Florida, and the rest of the state, have so far weathered the effects of those potential calamities. With issues like Zika, Lawson said the sector is more prepared this year than it was last year when the first locally transmitted cases appeared in Miami.

"[Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO] Bill Talbert and the leadership in Miami took things seriously," Lawson said. "We went through a period of concern, but folks are ... prepared." Lawson was appointed to his role in January following Will Seccombe's resignation amid a controversial deal with rapper Pitbull. Lawon's primary goal since then has been to bring 120 million visitors to Florida this year.

That would be a 6 percent increase compared to the 112.3 million visitors that came to the state in 2016 and spent $108.8 billion. Southeast Florida was the destination of about 40 million of those tourists in 2017. In the past 10 years, the total number of visitors to Florida has increased 34 percent, but not in all segments. International visitors has declined 7 percent in the past three years, particularly from Caribbean and Latin American countries, according to Visit Florida.

Domestically, New York remains the No. 1 market in the U.S. for visitation to Florida, with the number of travelers from the state rising.

Visit Florida aims to increase its budget from $76 million to $100 million by 2020 to reach more markets both domestic and international. Lawson said local businesses don't need big budgets to partner with the organization. As an example, he named Southeast Florida's Schnebly Redland's Winery and Sawgrass Recreation Park, both which partnered with the organization to advertise nationally and internationally.

"It exposes you to a marketplace perhaps you can't afford," Lawson said.

Visit Florida, the state's official travel marketing agency, works with more than 12,000 tourism industry businesses. Florida's tourism industry supported about 1.4 million jobs in the state in 2015, according to the latest data.




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The Clay Florida Economic Development Corporation provides concierge service for companies who want to re-invest in expansion in the county or relocate their companies to the region.

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