TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A record number of tourists flocked to Florida last year as the nation's economy continued its recovery after the Great Recession.
Gov. Rick Scott was to announce Monday during a visit to Tampa International Airport that more than 97 million visited the state last year according to estimates prepared by Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm.
That's the fourth year in a row that the state has had a record number of tourists come to the state. Most of the visitors were from the United States, but millions also came from overseas and from Canada.
"Florida's natural beauty, pristine beaches and exciting attractions continue to bring countless visitors to our state and provide valuable jobs for our families," said Scott in a statement.
Despite the record year of 97.3 million tourists Florida fell a little bit short of reaching Scott's goal of having 100 million tourists visit in 2014. Nearly 94 million people visited the state the previous year.
Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing company, estimates that 11.5 million visitors were from overseas and 3.8 million tourists came from Canada. Those are increases over 2013 as well. State officials told a legislative committee last year that Florida is "growing at the expense of our competition" as Americans are shifting away from visiting other places to come to Florida.
Since becoming governor Scott has pushed to increase the amount of money spent on marketing and advertising by Visit Florida. This year he is seeking an increase of $17.5 million. It's not clear, however, if state legislators will go along with the request.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater and chairman of the committee that oversees Visit Florida's budget, said last week that while the numbers have jumped the last few years that another large boost in funding may not produce another large jump in the number of visitors.