|By Doreen Hemlock, Sun Sentinel, Fort
Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 09, 2012--South Florida's key tourism industry set records in 2011 and is surpassing those highs this year, but new numbers show that the area's three counties differ widely in how much their average visitor spends.
In Palm Beach County, the average visitor spent about $1,100 per trip last year. In Broward County, each spent about $800, and in Miami-Dade County, more than $1,500, according to new numbers released Tuesday by local tourism bureaus to celebrate National Tourism Day.
The difference in South Florida lies partly with the cost of hotel rooms. Palm Beach County has a greater share of luxury hotels than Broward, costing its visitors more per night. And Miami-Dade has the largest share of international visitors, who generally stay longer, shop more and spend more than U.S. counterparts, travel leaders said.
In Miami-Dade, international visitors made up 48 percent of overnight guests but accounted for roughly 70 percent of tourist spending last year, according to new data from the Greater Miami tourism bureau.
That heavy spending helps explain why both Broward County and Palm Beach County tourism agencies are keen to lure more international tourists, which now make up less than 25 percent of their business. Palm Beach County is targeting Brazilians and Colombians, said Jorge Pesquera, chief of the county's tourism bureau.
Palm Beach County's travel bureau held three events at shopping malls Tuesday to tout the importance of tourism for the area and of shopping as a tourist attraction. More than 250 people attended the rallies.
The bureau also unveiled results of the first comprehensive study of the county's visitor industry in years. The top findings:
Palm Beach County hosted nearly 5 million overnight visitors who spent about $5 billion in the county last year. The industry generated $836 million in total taxes. The industry helped support 44,600 jobs -- "jobs that can never be outsourced," tourism leaders said.
In contrast, Broward hosted roughly 11 million overnight visitors who spent about $9 billion in the county last year. And Miami-Dade reported 13.4 million visitors who spent $20.7 billion, the bureaus said.
So far this year, tourism is growing faster than expected and is poised for new highs, travel leaders said.
Sparking 2012 gains: an improving U.S. economy; robust growth in Brazil, Colombia and other countries that send large numbers of visitors to South Florida; plus increased tourism promotions overseas by U.S., Florida and county travel groups.
(c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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