Tourists keep coming in record numbers, say South Florida, state tourism officials

June 14th, 2018

Tourism continues to thrive in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott this week announced an all-time record 33.2 million visitors were welcomed to Florida in the first quarter of 2018, a 7.4 percent increase over the 31.1 million tourists who visited during the same period in 2017.

It was the largest quarter ever for tourism in Florida, according to a news release from Scott’s office based on data from Visit Florida.

Visit Florida does not collect tourism numbers for individual counties. Instead, each county uses its own methodology to collect and report visitor estimates.

Late last month, tourism officials in Palm Beach County announced the county welcomed 2.4 million visitors during the first three months of the year — a 2.5 percent increase over the 2.3 million visitors from the year before. International travel was strong, growing 2.9 percent, with net gains in visitors from Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Colombia, the county’s tourism officials said.

Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover the Palm Beaches, Palm Beach County’s tourism promotion agency, said he’s optimistic the first quarter numbers are “an early indicator that we are poised to achieve nine years in a row of increasing visitation.” Tourism is Palm Beach County’s second leading economic driver behind agriculture, according to an agency news release.

The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, meanwhile, announced a 5.3 percent increase in overnight visitors — from 4.4 million to 4.6 million in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017. Domestic travel increased by 4.2 percent and international travel was up by 6.5 percent, the bureau said.

Rolando Aedo, the bureau’s chief operating officer, said tourism is on a record pace. Officials are optimistic that 2018 will be another record year in topping 2017’s numbers, he said.

Gov. Scott and Ken Lawson, president and CEO of Visit Florida, issued statements crediting Visit Florida for the statewide increase in visitors reported by the state’s tourism marketing agency.

Lawson cited “help from our 12,000 industry partners” and called the increase “fantastic news.”

The 7.4 percent statewide increase bested increases of 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, and 4.8 percent in the first three months of 2016 compared with the previous first quarter.

Visitors from Canada increased by 2.5 percent, or 34,000, while overseas travelers declined by 0.7 percent, or 19,000, according to Visit Florida. Scott’s news release did not address the reasons for the continued decline in overseas travelers, coming on the heels of a 4.3 percent drop in overseas travelers for all of 2017 compared with 2016.

The drop in overseas tourists has been reported as a nationwide trend over the past two years, with various analysts blaming slow economic growth in some of the top nations of origin, combined with the strong U.S. dollar, and even dissatisfaction by overseas residents with the policies of President Donald Trump.

However, in April, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it was suspending data releases on overseas travel because it found technical issues with “a significant number of records” received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that improperly identified non-U.S. citizens traveling on visas to the United States as U.S. citizens, “resulting in a probably undercount for 2017,” the department said. No update on resumption of the data releases has been announced on the department’s website.



Source: Sun Sentinel

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