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Florida could top 100 million visitors in 2015

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The first three months of the year gave Florida a boost in its effort to draw 100 million visitors in 2015.

Visit Florida, the state's tourism-marketing arm, said Friday that 28.4 million visitors came to the state during the first quarter of 2015, up 6.2 percent from the previous year.

The total was the largest number of visitors in state history over a three-month period.

Gov. Rick Scott and Visit Florida Chief Executive Officer Will Seccombe said the state could top 100 million visitors in 2015. Florida fell just short of that in 2014, with an all-time high of 98.9 million visitors.

"For every job in the tourism industry, we are creating another job outside the industry to support that,'' Seccombe said. "In construction, logistics, and infrastructure development, the tourism industry has clearly been driving the Florida economy. It's strong and it looks to be getting stronger."

Experts said while visitors are great, the state has to make sure it can handle all of them.
Robert Weissert with Florida TaxWatch said that infrastructure needs to be kept up with and properly funded.

"If they're stuck in traffic on the highway, if they can't catch a train, if their plane can't land, or if they're stuck forever in immigration naturalization services when they land, then they're not going to have a good experience," Weissert said. "So the key is keeping our infrastructure investment moving forward."

While many said the brutal northern winter contributed to an uptick in visitors early in the year, TaxWatch said the record-breaking numbers can be contributed to an overall improving economy around the country.