Sunday, May 20, 2018
Business

Tourism continues to surge in Florida, despite threats like Zika, Pulse shooting and hurricanes

Tourists have continued to flock to Florida in record numbers this year despite a slew of obstacles that could have deterred people from vacationing here, including the Zika virus, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and two hurricanes.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that 85 million visitors came to Florida during the first nine months of the year — the largest number of tourists during any nine months in the state's history. That's a 5.5 percent increase over last year.

For the third quarter, which is July through September, 26.9 million visitors came to the state, which is a 5.1 percent bump compared to last year.

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, which have regularly outpaced the state in tourism growth, also have reported record-shattering bed tax collections. With more than 2,000 new hotel rooms set to open over the next few years in the Tampa Bay area, local tourism officials don't see a slowdown any time soon.

"What we did have going on this year was the coverage of the presidential election sucking all the air out of any other stories that may have further impacted tourism," said David Downing, executive director of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, Pinellas County's tourism marketing agency. "We look for a silver lining wherever we can find them."

Read More: Tourism continues to thrive in Tampa Bay despite Zika and Brexit, but is it recession proof?

In March, Pinellas County collected $7 million in bed taxes for the first time and is on pace to collect $50 million by the end of the year. That would be up from $40 million collected last year, Downing said. In addition, the average daily room rate has risen by 33 percent over the last five years.

"Our objective isn't to bring more and more visitors," Downing said. "It's to continue to explore ways to get more economic impact from the tourists we do get."

Read More: Will a Donald Trump presidency scare foreign tourists away from Florida?

Hillsborough County collected $26.9 million in tourism development taxes this fiscal year. That beats the amount recorded in 2015 by more than 10 percent; it's the third record-breaking year in a row.

"Florida is still viewed as a dream vacation, especially internationally," said Patrick Harrison, chief marketing officer for Visit Tampa Bay. "The whole state is doing well, and we continue to outpace the rest of the country."

Scott's office said all the visitors are resulting in jobs. Tourism-related jobs set a record during the third quarter this year, when the industry employed 1.24 million people, up 4 percent.

"We are on pace to reach our goal of 115 million tourists by the end of the year," Scott said in a statement.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

Comments
Camping without the hassle: New service rents you all the gear you need, plus the car

Camping without the hassle: New service rents you all the gear you need, plus the car

One day in April, I returned from a camping trip - a quick 24 out of the city - and ran a load of laundry. Whatís more telling is what I didnít do.I didnít hose down a muddy tent, I didnít soak a shoddily cleaned pot, and I categorically did not empt...
Published: 05/19/18
Romano: Save your money, sports betting wonít be in Florida anytime soon

Romano: Save your money, sports betting wonít be in Florida anytime soon

It is the middle of the day and the beginning of the off-season at Tampa Bay Downs. That means the action is limited to simulcast wagering, and that means the televisions outnumber the bettors.The parimutuel industry is long past its heyday in Americ...
Published: 05/19/18
Son of Crabby Billís founder leaves complex legacy of troubled projects and good deeds

Son of Crabby Billís founder leaves complex legacy of troubled projects and good deeds

SOUTH PASADENA ó Like his father, who founded the Crabby Billís seafood restaurant chain, John Loder Sr. had a larger-than-life personality. That was one reason he dived into the real estate business, becoming a well-known, if at times controversial ...
Published: 05/18/18
Updated: 05/19/18
Global Tampa Bay initiative seeks to grow direct foreign investment through expanded regional teamwork

Global Tampa Bay initiative seeks to grow direct foreign investment through expanded regional teamwork

TAMPA ó A decade ago, the Great Recession put Hillsborough and Pinellas countiesí efforts to grow their foreign exports on hold.But since then those efforts have returned, gained support and momentum, expanded the range of their ambition and are now ...
Published: 05/18/18
Florida unemployment holds at 3.9 percent, state adds 9,600 jobs

Florida unemployment holds at 3.9 percent, state adds 9,600 jobs

Floridaís economy appears to have plateaued with its unemployment rate holding at 3.9 percent for the seventh straight month, according to the April report released Friday.But some economists say it may be a good thing if the rate doesnít fall much m...
Published: 05/18/18
Lawsuit over Riverwalk Place tower in downtown Tampa settled

Lawsuit over Riverwalk Place tower in downtown Tampa settled

TAMPA ó A lawsuit over the mix of residences and offices in the planned $350 million Riverwalk Place tower has been dropped.Last August, Riverwalk Tower Investment-Intown LLC, which had been expected to be one of the developers in the project, filed ...
Published: 05/18/18
Orlandoís new attractions power jump in theme park attendance

Orlandoís new attractions power jump in theme park attendance

By MIKE SCHNEIDERORLANDO ó The arms race to build new theme park attractions in Orlando is paying dividends. A new report released this week shows theme park attendance at the largest parks in North America last year was up 2.3 percent, powered by ne...
Published: 05/18/18
How Mosaicís relocation could help Tampa International Airport land a flight to Brazil

How Mosaicís relocation could help Tampa International Airport land a flight to Brazil

Tampa International covets a nonstop flight to S„o Paulo, Brazil. Mosaic Co, which is moving its headquarters to Hillsborough County, has huge holdings in the country, including several mines. Could Mosaicís relocation help TIA realize its dream? It ...
Published: 05/18/18
Remember that upscale Guy Harvey RV resort near Tarpon Springs. Forget the Guy Harvey part

Remember that upscale Guy Harvey RV resort near Tarpon Springs. Forget the Guy Harvey part

HOLIDAY ó A year ago this month, Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts announced plans for its first-ever RV park, near Tarpon Springs where the Anclote River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.The $35 million resort, named after the popular Jamaican marine artist...
Published: 05/18/18
American Dream Miami to become largest mall in U.S. after final approval

American Dream Miami to become largest mall in U.S. after final approval

MIAMI ó A gigantic $4 billion retail and entertainment complex won government approval Thursday after years of debate, greenlighting what promises to be the largest mall in North America, just a few miles from the environmentally sensitive Everglades...
Published: 05/18/18