A record number of tourists came to Florida during the first quarter of 2017 as 31.1 million visited the state during the first three months of the year. That’s was a 2.5 % jump over the same time in 2016
Out this number, according to visit Florida, 27.1 million were from the United States, a 3.2 % increase over the same time a year and about 2.7 million tourists were foreign with some 1.3 million coming from Canada, between January and March of 2017.
The increase was not limited to areas with tourist’s attractions such as Miami and Orlando with Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios or Tampa with Bush Gardens. Palm Beach County had an increase of tourism resulting in hotel occupancy increasing to 83.9 %, an increase of 1 % over the same period of last year.
Because of the lower Canadian dollar in 2017, and a milder winter in Canada, Canadian tourism in Florida decreased by approximately 2.2 % in 2017 over 2016. However, Canadian tourist remained, by far, the largest source of foreign tourism for Florida, exceeding by great numbers those from Brazil, with a population of close to three times that of Canada.
Tourism is Florida’s largest industry because of its warm winter climate, sandy beaches and thousands of attractions and tourist events. Despite this the Florida legislature, during the regular 2017 session denied the Governor any funds to attract higher paying industries to Florida and reduced the funds previously provided Visit Florida to attract tourism to this state.
However, in a special session of the legislature in June, the Florida House and Senate approved a bill that would increase spending for Visit Florida from 25 million dollars to 76 million, which was a priority of the Governor. This special session also resulted in providing the Governor an $85 million corporate incentive fund to help pay for infrastructure and job training.
There has been much criticism of the actions of the Florida legislature, during the regular 60 days session, because of differences and disagreements between the two leaders of the Florida House and Senate and with the Governor. This required this unusual special session in June to resolve these disagreements.