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Robert Trigaux

After hitting 2010 bottom and despite $4 gas, visitors on upswing in Tampa/Hillsborough




Tampa's skyline as the city prepares for the high stakes hosting of the Republican National Convention in just four more months.
(Photo: Dirk Shadd, Tampa Bay Times.)

Wake up and good morning. After five straight years of declines, visitor activity in Tampa and Hillsborough County in 2011 got a slight bounce off its bottom in 2010. Visitors numbered 14.49 million last year in Tampa/Hillsborough, up from the low of 13.93 in 2010 after hitting a recent peak of 17.88 million in 2005 prior to the recession.

mark-bonn_floridastatetourism.A visitor update was presented Tuesday to the Tampa Bay & Co. tourism agency by Florida State University professor Mark Bonn. He (photo, right) predicts increasing numbers of visitors in 2012. Here's more of his research  (click on "2011 Research Presentation).

How are those visitors getting here? The numbers show 55.6 percent of visitors got to Tampa in 2011 buy air compared with just 39.9 percent in 2004. And just 44.4 percent arrived last year by car, down from 60.1 percent seven years earlier. Area gas prices hover just under $4 a gallon now. And 2004 gas prices? Under a headline Oil prices rocket higher and you're paying more at the pump, too, here's what this newspaper wrote that year:

"The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas reached $1.946 in the Tampa Bay area on Wednesday night, a 31 percent increase over the past year. It could rise above $2 within a week." That's half today's price.

Where are the 2011 visitors to Tampa/Hillsborough all coming from? In 2011, 21.4 percent visited from other parts of Florida, 62.8 percent visited from the United States and 13.1 percent were international visitors.

Here's the breakdown.

For in-state visitors, the top 10 cities were:
1. St. Petersburg
2. Clearwater
3. Orlando
4. Lakeland
5. Sarasota
6. Wesley Chapel
7. Bradenton
8. Miami
9. New Port Richey
10. Fort Myers

For domestic visitors, the top 10 cities were:
1. New York, NY
2. Chicago, IL
3. Boston, MA
4. Atlanta, GA
5. Washington, DC
6. Philadelphia, PA
7. Detroit, MI
8. Cleveland, OH
9. Pittsburg, PA
10. Indianapolis, IN

And for international visitors, the top 5 countries were:
1. Canada
2. England
3. Brazil
4. Germany
5. Puerto Rico.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 11:00am]


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