Florida’s tourism industry has good reason to be thankful this week.
Despite the pounding the Sunshine State took from Hurricane Irma in September, the industry continues to set records.
Numbers released Monday by the Governor’s Office show tourism continued to grow through the third quarter of this year. In the first nine months of 2017, 88.2 million visitors came to Florida. That represents a 3.3 percent increase over the same time period last year.
It’s estimated 27.9 million visitors came to Florida in the third quarter of this year with most of them, 24.9 million, being domestic travelers. The state saw 2.6 million overseas visitors and 428,000 visitors from Canada
“Florida has had three record quarters in 2017, which would not be possible without our relentless work to market Florida as the top tourism destination,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a prepared statement. “This includes Visit Florida’s aggressive marketing efforts to make sure families across the world knew that Florida was open for tourism following Hurricane Irma.”
Irma slammed into the Florida Keys on September 10 and made a second landfall later that day in the Naples area causing heavy damage to businesses in the Keys and Southwest Florida. Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, quickly launched a media campaign to let the rest of the world know that the state was still open for business.
“Back-to-back-to-back record quarters in the first nine months of this year show the Florida tourism industry has great momentum,” said Ken Lawson, president and CEO of Visit Florida.
But, will that momentum continue into the fourth quarter?
Irma struck Florida just weeks before the end of third quarter. The final quarter of the year will be the true test for the industry and the impact Irma might have had on visitors.
Scott and Visit Florida had set a goal earlier in the year of 120 million visitors for 2017. To reach that mark, Florida would have to see nearly 32 million visitors in the final three months of this year. It would need just under 25 million tourists to break last year’s record of 112.8 million visitors. There were 27.6 visitors to the state during the final quarter a year ago.
If the state were to top last year’s numbers it would mark the seventh straight record-breaking year for Florida tourism.
The head of Visit Florida appears optimistic.
“Visit Florida will not rest on our laurels, but will continue to be at the forefront of creating leading-edge, original marketing programs for our industry partners so that together we can make Florida the number one vacation destination in the world,” Lawson said.
It’s optimism that is echoed by Scott.
“We will work with the Legislature to invest $100 million for VISIT FLORIDA this upcoming session to continue this success and make sure Florida can continue to break tourism records.”