Florida is a clear winner in the travel sweepstakes. Preliminary estimates by VISIT FLORIDA - the state’s official tourism marketing corporation - show an estimated 85.9 million visitors came to Florida in 2011, an increase of 4.4 percent over 2010.
VISIT FLORIDA says this represents a record year for visitation to Florida, exceeding the previous high of 84.5 million in 2007. Direct travel-related employment in Florida also rose to a near record high of 1,013,100, adding more than 38,000 jobs and representing a 3.9 percent increase over 2010.
“With such significant increases in jobs and visitors to the Sunshine State in 2011, tourism remains the state’s No. 1 industry and the leading driver of Florida’s rebounding economy,” said Governor Rick Scott. “VISIT FLORIDA and the entire Florida tourism industry are leading the way to ensuring that we become the No. 1 travel destination in the world.”
Estimates for 2011 show a 3.0 percent increase in domestic visitors to Florida, a 5.7 percent increase in Canadian visitors and a 16.1 percent increase in overseas visitors, the agency said. For 2011, 21.5 million Floridians took an in-state pleasure trip, an increase of 12.5 percentage points. These increases represent record highs for overseas, Canadian and in-state visitation to Florida.
“Since Florida relies on tourism to generate nearly a quarter of the state’s sales tax revenue and to employ over one million Floridians, it’s very encouraging to see that the industry experienced a record year,” said Tony Lapi, chairman of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors and president of VISIT FLORIDA. Primary data collected at Florida’s 14 major airports in 2011 reflects an 11.9 percent increase in total enplanements from 2010. Tourism/recreation taxable sales for Florida increased every month year-over-year from January through November 2011 (last reported month), representing a 7.2 percent increase over the same period in 2010.
Preliminary estimates of visitors to Florida for the fourth quarter of 2011 show an estimated 20.6 million people visited the Sunshine State. This reflects an increase of 0.3 percent from the same period in 2010. VISIT FLORIDA also reports that an estimated 2.5 million overseas visitors traveled to Florida in the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of 13.9 percent, and Canadian travel increased by 2.0 percent over the same period in 2010.
Florida tourism has been steadily regaining market share since January 2011, outpacing the rest of the U.S. by more than two percentage points, VISIT FLORIDA says. According to Smith Travel Research, room revenue in Florida for 2011 was up 10.9 percent compared to 2010, while the U.S. is only up 8.8 percent.
“We’re excited to have welcomed a record number of visitors to the Sunshine State in 2011,” said Will Seccombe, chief marketing officer for VISIT FLORIDA. "And perhaps the best news is that, despite a very competitive environment, Florida was able to grow our market share of total U.S. visitors.”