TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s tourism industry is taking a hit in the sour economy. It’s the first time in seven years that tourism has dropped in the popular Sunshine State, according to statistics released Monday.
About 82.5 million visitors traveled to Florida in 2008, roughly 2.3 percent less than 2007. Visits were actually up during the first part of 2008, but started tumbling when news about the economy hit, according to VISIT FLORIDA officials. Families changed vacation plans and companies canceled conventions.
Before 2008, visitors to the state had increased steadily for seven years.
However, international visitors not hit by the U.S. economy are taking advantage of great travel deals.
Canadian travel to Florida increased by 14 percent overall in 2008.
More Florida residents are also sticking close to home during the tough economic time, taking in-state vacations. Those trips increased by 22.9 percent in 2008.
Experts say similar drops are also being seen in travel spots like California and Las Vegas.
“Americans are being very conservative in their travel today,” said Bud Nocera, VISIT FLORIDA’s president and CEO.