TALLAHASSEE -- Visit Florida is reporting that tourism is up for the third quarter of the year and on track for a record-breaking year.
According to preliminary estimates released Friday, 22.9 million visitors came to Florida from July to September, an increase of 1.7 percent over the same period in 2012. It is the largest third quarter number for visitation in the state's history, according to the state's tourism division.
Through the first three quarters of 2013, Florida saw 72.6 million visitors -- an increase of 3.4 percent over the same period last year. Visitor spending in Florida for January through August of this year was $51.8 billion, representing a year-over-year increase of 5.8 percent from the same period in 2012.
In Manatee County, September saw a 15 percent increase in bed-tax revenue, one of the key indicators for tourism in the county, according to data from the Manatee County Tax Collector's office released earlier this month. Manatee area hotels brought in $449,478 in September, compared with $382,299 during the same month in 2012. That's up 44 percent from September 2009, according to tax records.
Direct travel-related employment in Florida for January through August rose 2.8 percent, adding 29,700 jobs since this same time one year ago, according to Gov. Rick Scott's office. Each of these figures marks a record, making the first three quarters of 2013 the largest nine-month period in the history of Florida's tourism industry.
The tourism outlook was so bright, retail officials upwardly adjusted their predictions on retail sales over the holiday season. The Florida Retail Federation is banking on a total of 100 million tourists by the end of the year, and those more than 25 million predicted to come in the last quarter of the year, opening their wallets in Florida's retail outlets.
"So far this year, we're up nearly 2.5 million visitors who increased their spending by almost $3 billion, led by a double-digit increase in international visitors," said Tammy Gustafson, Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. "This continued momentum is a tes
tament to the strength of VISIT FLORIDA's marketing efforts, the power of the Sunshine State brand and the dedication of the nearly 1.1 million Floridians who work in the state's tourism industry."
An estimated 19.5 million domestic visitors came to Florida during the third quarter of 2013, representing a 0.5 percent increase from the same period in 2012. Florida had 2.9 million overseas visitors in the third quarter of 2013, representing a 10.1 percent increase over the same period last year. Florida also saw 516,000 Canadian visitors during the same period, representing a 2.9 percent increase from the previous year.
"Record visitor numbers equate to record visitor spending," said Will Seccombe, president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. "With taxable sales up, occupancy rates up, rental car collections up, bed taxes up and average daily room rates up, Florida's tourism industry has never been stronger."
The average daily room rate rose 3.6 percent to $102.69 and the occupancy rate for Florida hotels increased 1.9 percentage points to 62.7 percent in the third quarter of this year, compared to the same time in 2012.
Tourism-related employment has lead the state in growth for 41 straight months.
"These newly released tourism numbers are encouraging to our more than 10,000 members of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association in our effort to attract over 100 million visitors to the Sunshine State," said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. "As Florida's largest employer, our tourism and hospitality industry is on the front lines each and every day in providing a world class experience to visitors coming to our state for business meetings, conventions, vacations and milestone celebrations."