Florida tourism sets another record


Florida posted a record number of tourists during the first quarter of 2016, putting the state on pace to approach Gov. Rick Scott's new goal of 115 million visitors in a single year.

The estimated 29.8 million visitors for the first three months of the year -- the largest ever for a single quarter and 4.8 percent over the same period in 2015 -- was announced Monday by Scott and Visit Florida, the state's tourism arm.

"Last year, we exceeded our goal of an historic 105 million visitors because of Florida's unique national treasures, and I look forward to smashing our record again this year by welcoming 115 million visitors to the Sunshine State," Scott said in a prepared statement.

In the past, Scott had made surpassing 100 million visitors in a single year the goal for Visit Florida. Visit Florida estimated that 25.6 million of the first-quarter visitors were from other states, up 6.6 percent from a year ago. The state also estimates that the tourism industry accounts for 1.23 million jobs, up 3.8 percent from a year ago. The public-private Visit Florida is slated to receive $76 million from the state during the upcoming fiscal year.

Visit Florida has drawn some scrutiny over spending last year on items that ranged from paying Miami rapper Pitbull to be an ambassador for the state to increasing efforts to attract tourists from the United Kingdom by sponsoring the London-based Fulham Football Club, a second-division soccer league team owned by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid "Shad" Khan.