• Florida tourism surges even as state deals with disasters

    By: Christopher Heath

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida is breaking records for tourism with more than 95 million people visiting the state this year, a 6 percent increase over 2017.

    The growth comes at a time when communities in the southwestern part of the state have been dealing with fish kills from red tide.  The red tied and the smell of dead fish closed many beaches in places like Collier County, significantly impacting local tourism.  Despite the local drop, the state still welcomed in a record number of guests.

    “Tourism is the backbone of Florida’s economy and these visitation numbers, where we continue to break records year after year, is just feeding and growing that sector and that’s good for the economy,” says Sean Snaith, of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness.

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    In Central Florida, the expansion of theme parks and other attractions has continued to bring visitors to the region, while for the most part, the beaches in Brevard, Volusia, and Flagler have remained free from the fish kills and red tide seen on the Gulf Coast.

    Although overall tourism numbers are up, there are some waring signs, specifically a two-year decline in overseas tourism.

    “International tourists do stay longer and they do spend more,” says Snaith.

    According to the research from Visit Florida, overseas tourism was down 2 percent in 2017 and is down 1 percent in 2018 with the largest declines coming from Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.

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