|By Ted Jackovics, Tampa Tribune,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 27, 2012--TAMPA -- Hillsborough County's visitors industry continues to rebound from the recession with a 5.5 percent gain in overnight visitors during the first three months of 2012 -- a total of 1.4 million people, Tampa Bay & Company officials said Thursday.
The trend follows a steep increase in 2011, when overnight visitors increased 12.7 percent to 5.1 million. It followed weak years in 2009 and 2010, when overnight visitors totaled 4.3 million and 4.5 million, respectively.
"We are moving forward on all fronts," said visitors bureau President and Chief Executive Kelly Miller, who has been on the job for about 90 days after replacing longtime director Paul Catoe.
The Republican National Convention is expected to draw 50,000 visitors to the Tampa Bay area in late August, giving the visitors industry a boost during what's generally one of the slowest periods of the year.
In another positive sign, a new Channelside Bay Plaza visitor center held a grand opening at the end of March and reported a 42 percent gain in patrons compared with the first 25 days of April. The number of visitors totaled 3,614.
The strongest gains in hotel room demand during the first two months of the year were in the North Tampa-Busch Gardens area, followed by downtown, East Tampa and Westshore, according to more detailed data available from February in a Smith Travel Research Inc.
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