Upswing in state tourism means more jobs

Gov. Scott hopes to see all-time high of 100M tourists


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A lofty tourism goal for the state looks to be exceeding expectations, and all of those visitors add up to more jobs here at home.

The state's visitation numbers have increased for four straight years since a recession low of 80 million visitors in 2009.

With an economy seemingly back to pre-recession numbers and plenty to offer, Florida tourism business is booming. 2013 was another record year for out-of-staters coming in.

"We went to 91.5 million visitors to 94.3 million," said Jerry Parrish, with Florida TaxWatch. "What we calculated is, that has increased Florida jobs by a total of 75,771."

More visitors mean more jobs, so the governor wants to see an all-time high of 100 million tourists come through the state this year. Early numbers from 2014 show the state is ahead of the pace. More than 26 million people stopped by in the first quarter of this year.

"Today in the state of Florida there are more visitors than (there are people that) live in 12 US states, and those people are coming in and experiencing all that we have to offer," said Will Seccombe, the CEO of Visit Florida. "They're staying in hotels, they're buying at retail stores, they're buying at restaurants."

Florida TaxWatch said with all the visitors coming in, it could lead to tax savings for the people living here year-round.

The state benefits when someone from out of state and out of the country chooses to spend their money in Florida. About 23 percent of sales tax collected every year comes from tourists.

"What that makes possible is things like the tax holiday we had this past weekend, the nearly $500 million tax break that the most recent legislature gave to Florida citizens -- it makes those things possible," Parrish said.

Visit Florida is not technically a state department, but it does benefit greatly from legislature money. This past year lawmakers voted to up the public/private partnership's budget to $74 million.