Tourism Numbers Way Up in Spite of Hurricanes

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New numbers show Florida’s tourist trade is stronger than ever in spite of two devastating hurricane seasons.

Nearly 86 million visitors came to Florida last year, smashing the old record of just under 80 million visitors in 2004, but state officials say Florida needs to be about more than just tourism if our economy is to continue to grow.

85.8 million tourists crowded Florida’s attractions last year, even though Florida is becoming almost as famous for its bruising hurricanes as its beautiful beaches.

“Visit Florida” President Bud Nocera says vacation dollars go a long way here and that keeps people coming back.

“It is a value, and people are very comfortable with Florida. They know Florida, they know their favorite destinations, they know their favorite attractions, and they’re very comfortable with coming here with their families on vacation.”

But Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings says Florida has to do a better job of weathering the storm by attracting research and technology-based companies.

“The reason Gov. Bush is so strong on diversifying the economy is so we don’t have peaks and valleys, so that we can have a sort of straight line ascension in our economic development, and development like this.”

The jobs that come with manufacturing and research and development companies also tend to pay better than your average job in the tourism industry, the kind of jobs the state is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to attract.

Florida may be crushing the competition when it comes to luring tourists, but 11 other states spend more to bring in new business.

This is the fourth straight year tourism numbers have gone up in Florida. More than 944,000 people work in Florida’s tourism industry.