Florida became the first state to welcome more than 100 million out-of-state and international tourists.
Gov. Rick Scott said more than 105 million people came to the Sunshine State in 2015. The record-breaking number was announced recently at Epcot. “We have a great tourism industry all across our state,” said Scott.
State and tourism officials said it took time to crack the 100 million mark, a goal set by Scott several years ago. Florida missed the mark in 2014 by recording nearly 99 million tourists that year. Now that the state has comfortably surpassed its goal, Scott set a new goal of 115 million visitors.
Will Seccombe, president and chief executive officer of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism authority, does not consider the new target unattainable. Following the media event to announce Florida's 2015 tourism numbers, Governor Rick Scott and Will Seccombe, President and CEO of Visit Florida, discuss tourism, job growth, and new goals. “The momentum is extraordinary,” he said. “And one of the most important things we have is strengths in markets like the U.K. and Latin America. We have growth in overseas visitors.”
Thursday’s announcement was forecasted as early as last August when Scott and Visit Florida leaders announced the state was on track to hit the the record number.
Between January and June, Florida recorded 54.1 million tourists. At the time, Scott said that was the largest number of tourists to come to the Florida in the first half of a year. Last year also had the largest second quarter ever.
About 25.8 million visitors came to Florida during the second quarter of 2015, an increase of 5.5 percent over 2014's second quarter. New attractions and an ever-changing tourist landscape in Florida is being credited for the increased number of visitors.
“Florida’s a great place to invest and growing our business,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “And we’re continuing to do that with a lot of new initiatives.” Chapek took a moment to describe the lengthy list of changes and updates coming to Disney’s parks in Orlando, including lands for Star Wars, Toy Story and Avatar.
Seccombe said Orlando’s success is critical for the state’s overall success. “Orlando is the most visited destination in the United States. It’s the most visited city,” he said. “And certainly the home of the theme park capital of the world, right? No place else on earth can compare to that.”
In 2014, Orlando recorded 62 million visitors, which includes in-state, out-of-state and international visitors. Even though the two tourism agencies track tourists differently, Seccombe said Orlando accounts for the “lion’s share” of Florida’s traffic.
George Aguel, Visit Orlando’s chief executive officer and president, said Orlando surpassed 2014’s record, but would not say by how much. That figure is expected to be released in April, similar to when 2014’s record was announced last year.
Aguel said the state’s traffic count aligns with the blockbuster year Central Florida had in 2015. He said Scott’s new goal should be viewed as motivational rather than unrealistic. “I see that as kind of throwing that out there for everyone to get excited about and keep pushing as any of us can,” he said.
Source: Visit Florida