|By Ted Jackovics, Tampa Tribune,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 19, 2013--TAMPA -- A record number of tourists visited Florida in 2012, according to preliminary numbers released Monday by the state's tourism agency.
The report by Visit Florida shows 89.3 million tourists visited Florida in 2012, a 2.3 percent increase over 2011, also a record year.
Overseas travel was especially strong, the agency said, with the number of foreign travelers surpassing 10 million for the first time, a 9 percent increase over 2011 to 10.2 million visitors. Canadian visitors represented more than a third of that total, with 3.6 million Canadian tourists in 2012, a 7.3 percent increase over the year before.
Preliminary data from Tennessee-based travel industry consultant Smith Travel Research indicates Florida tourism has been steadily regaining market share since January 2012, outpacing the rest of the U.S. by more than 0.3 percent.
Pinellas officials said 2012 was a record year in their county. The total number of overnight visitors in Pinellas rose to 5.44 million in 2012, a 3.8 percent increase over 2011. They expect 2013 to be a good year, too.
"We have been hearing real positive things from hoteliers about the season so far this year," said D.T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Corporate travel appears to be strong based on inquiries by meetings planners, Minich said.
Visit Tampa Bay & Company, Hillsborough County's visitors' bureau, did not have final data available Monday, as their office closed for President's Day. However, "it looks like an increase over 2011," spokeswoman Liana Lopez said. "All indicators point to positive growth in the number of visitors to our county."
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