A record-breaking 112.8 million tourists visited Florida in 2016, up 5.9 percent over 2015’s level, Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday.
The increase marks the sixth consecutive year of record tourism growth in the state, the governor’s office said.
Tourism-related jobs area also at an all-time high in the state. The industry employed 1.4 million people in 2016, the governor’s office said.
“Today, I am proud to announce that Florida has once again welcomed a record number of tourists with 112.8 million visitors to the state in 2016,” Scott said. “Visitors spent $109 billion and supported a record 1.4 million Florida jobs in 2016 – a testament to the vital importance of tourism to our growing economy.”
On Wednesday, Palm Beach County tourism leaders announced a record-breaking 7.35 million visitors traveled to Palm Beach County in 2016.
The growth was driven by a 7 percent increase in domestic tourists and a 7.3 percent increase in Florida-based visitors, when compared to 2015’s level, according to Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s tourism marketing arm.
Among the domestic and state travel markets, the county saw the biggest increases in the number of visitors traveling here from New York, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Discover said.
Scott’s record-tourism announcement came a day after he gathered with Palm Beach County business and municipal leaders to rally support for two state agencies facing elimination, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.
The two private-public agencies, which promote Florida as a hot spot for business and tourism, are under pressure in Tallahassee. A bill, which cleared a House committee this past week, would abolish both, and in theory save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. The measure comes after years of wrangling between the governor and legislators over incentives to recruit out-of-state businesses to move to the Sunshine State.
Opposition by lawmakers to the tourism marketing agency, Visit Florida, surged after criticism of a $1 million contract with performing artist Pitbull. The revelation of the formerly secret contract cost former Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe his job, and also led to the departure of two other agency officials.
Scott took aim at the bill on Thursday, saying the tourism industry has seen “incredible successes,” even when faced with a string of difficult news last year that included the Zika outbreak, the worst mass public shooting in recent U.S. history at an Orlando nightclub and two hurricanes.
“I have seen firsthand how tourism impacts our state,” Scott said. “Since I have been in office, we have made important investments in Visit Florida and broken record after record of visitors, added more than a million new residents and seen Florida’s private sector create more than 1.25 million new jobs. Unfortunately, even with these incredible successes, politicians in the Florida House are trying to eliminate Visit Florida. I don’t understand how anyone can look at Florida’s booming tourism industry, and the more than 1.4 million jobs it supports, and vote to kill it. The legislation the Florida House is pushing puts more than 1.4 million jobs at risk and we cannot let that happen. We have to fight to continue investing in our tourism industry so we can keep breaking records and adding even more jobs.”