The number of visitors to the state of Florida increased in 2011 and industry experts were hopeful that the upward tourism trend would continue in 2012.
The $60 billion tourism industry in the United States saw a modest increase this year, due to the improving economy and the changes after the BP oil spill. According to the Associated Press, via News Republic, Florida was expected to hit 84 million visitors this year. The state tourism agency, Visit Florida, showed a five percent increase of visitors to the state, through September, over the previous year. This was mainly due to overseas visitors, especially tourists from Brazil. The Brazilian economy is doing well and more Brazilians can afford to travel abroad, with Florida being a top destination.
In addition to the increase of foreign visitors, the Florida tourism industry has improved due to the cleanup of the Florida Panhandle beaches, after the BP oil spill. The spill hurt the 2010 summer season in the Panhandle region, but with reparation money from BP, and hurricanes avoiding the area this year, tourists have returned to that section of Florida. Tampa Bay-area hoteliers were also concerned about the return of tourists to their area, since there was the misconception in 2010 that the oil from the BP spill would wash onto their beaches. Bed-tax revenue in the Panhandle and the Tampa Bay area both increased in 2011.
The Florida tourism industry employs one million people and accounts for one-fifth of the state’s total sales tax revenue, making it one of Florida’s leading industries.