Florida's tourism numbers up

November 16, 2012 

The number of tourists coming to the Sunshine State is increasing, according to new data released Thursday by Visit Florida the state's official tourism marketing corporation.

About 21.9 million visitors came to Florida in the third quarter (July-September), an increase of 3.5 percent over the same period in 2011.

Direct travel-related employment in Florida also rose 1.5 percent over third quarter 2011 to 1,020,200, an addition of 15,000 jobs since this time last year.

Tourism and recreation taxable sales for Florida from January through August 2012 were $49 billion, representing a year-over-year increase of 7.5 percent over the same period in 2011. The average daily room rate rose 3.3 percent and the occupancy rate for Florida hotels increased 1.7 percentage points in 2012 compared to the same time in 2011.

Westfield Square hosts "Sensory Santa" event

SARASOTA -- Westfield Square Mall will host a free "Sensory Santa for Children with Autism" Dec. 2.

The event will include meeting Santa and his elves, lower lighting, soft music, quieter surroundings since all stores in the mall will not yet be open, therapy dogs and a holiday treat bag for all.

"Parents that have heard about this event have expressed excitement about being able to go and see Santa without the experience being too overwhelming," said Colleen Buccieri, president of Face Autism.

The event will be held from 8 to 10 a.m. For more information, call 813-240-3044.

Tow to Go offered by Gold Coast Eagle Distributing

MANATEE -- Gold Coast Eagle Distributing is offering its Tow to Go program for Thanksgiving weekend. Adults are encouraged to take advantage of this free program.

Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, along with Anheuser-Busch and AAA, are the sponsors of the initiative that helps prevent drunk driving by providing a free tow service and a ride home to those who may have had too much to drink.

Since the programs inception, more than 20,000 intoxicated drivers have decided to use Tow to Go versus getting behind the wheel when there was a question of sobriety.

To use the Tow to Go program this Thanksgiving weekend, call 855-286-9246. The program is valid for Nov. 22 through Nov. 25.

Re/Max Alliance Group is business of the year

HOLMES BEACH -- Re/Max Alliance Group has received the 2013 Large Business of the Year Award from the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. The award was presented at the chamber's annual Awards and Installation Banquet recently at the Key Royale Golf Club.

Re/Max Alliance Group has 300 agents and staff and is the No. 1 Re/Max in Florida based on transactions and volume.

-- Herald staff reports

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