Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Florida governor: Tourists still coming in record numbers

Published:Tuesday | May 16, 2017 | 12:00 AMFlorida Governor Rick Scott says that a record number of tourists are visiting the state.
Florida Governor Rick Scott. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Scott visited Miami's Jungle Island on Monday to announce that 31.1 million people visited Florida during the first three months of this year. That's a 2.5 per cent jump over the same period in 2016.

Nearly 113 million tourists most of them from the United States visited last year, despite concerns that news events would turn them away.

Visitors seemed undaunted by the Pulse shootings in Orlando and by the Zika virus outbreak in South Florida. Some tourism experts also warned that with Donald Trump as president, international travel to the US would decline, but that doesn't seem to be the case in Florida.

According to Visit Florida the state's tourism arm 2.2 per cent fewer Canadians and 1.8 per cent fewer international visitors came to Florida in the first three months of the year. But there had been a much steeper decline in first-quarter 2016 from 2015 in those two categories: 16.8 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively.

doom growth

Scott, however, is warning that potential cuts to Florida's tourism marketing agency could doom continued growth. State legislators voted to cut two-thirds of the funding to Visit Florida after pointing to some questionable agency contracts.

If Scott signs the new state budget, the cuts will take effect in July. Scott hinted that he may veto it.

Scott took a jab at the Legislature during his visit to Jungle Island.

"It is disappointing that the Florida Legislature made a shortsighted decision to jeopardise the growth of our tourism industry and the 1.4 million jobs that rely on it by cutting funding to Visit Florida by 67 per cent," he said in a prepared statement.

"Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. In business, you would never stop marketing when you start to see great results," he said. "Instead of decimating funding to Visit Florida, we should be investing in tourism marketing so we can continue to bring record visitors to our state."

- AP