TAMPA — Record numbers of tourists are visiting Florida this year, boosting their spending and creating jobs, state and local officials said at a press conference Friday.
Through the first three quarters of this year, an estimated 72.6 million people visited the Sunshine State, up by 3.6 percent from the same three quarters last year, according to Visit Florida statistics. It marks a new record for a nine-month period in Florida, Visit Florida said in a news release.
Gov. Rick Scott visited Busch Gardens in Tampa on Friday to tout the numbers, flanked during a press conference by University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, Visit Florida Chief Executive Officer Will Seccombe, Tampa International Airport Chief Joe Lopano.
Widely expected to seek reelection, Scott ran on a platform of creating jobs and is known for traveling the state to announce corporate expansions.
On their face, the tourism numbers announced Friday were not as notable as, say, the govenor's visit to Tampa in September, when he announced a 1,000-job expansion by insurance services provider HealthPlan Services. The impetus for Friday's press conference was the release of the state's third-quarter tourism statistics, a Scott spokeswoman said. According to Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing entity, 22.9 million visitors came to the state from July to September. That was an overall increase of 1.7 percent over the same period of 2012.
The number of out-of-state Americans who visited in the third quarter rose only slightly to 19.5 million, up just 0.5 percent over last year. However, an estimated 2.9 million overseas visitors visited in the third quarter, up a stronger 10.1 percent, Visit Florida said.