|By Sara K. Clarke, Orlando
SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 17, 2012--Florida's tourism industry is on pace for a record year in 2012, industry officials said Thursday as they released second-quarter visitor figures.
Visit Florida, the state's publicly subsidized marketing agency, said 22.1 million people paid Florida a visit in the three months through June 30, according to preliminary estimates, a 1.3 percent increase from the same period last year. Combined with the 23.7 million visitors reported for the first quarter, that puts Florida's visitor count this year slightly ahead of last year's total through the first six months.
About 18.8 million, or 85 percent, of the state's second-quarter visitors were U.S. residents, a mere 0.3 percent improvement from a year earlier, while 2.4 million came countries other than the U.S., Canada or Mexico -- a 10 percent jump from the same period last year.
Those overseas gains came largely from a growing middle class in South America -- from Brazil in particular, Visit Florida said.
More tourists meant more jobs: The number of jobs tied directly to travel and tourism in Florida rose to 1.04 million in June, the marketing group said, up 1.1 percent from a year earlier and the largest employment total since the first quarter of 2008, as the Great Recession was taking hold.
"Increased visitation and spending by travelers to the state have fueled 27 straight months of job growth," Glenn Hastings, Visit Florida's chairman, said in a prepared statement.
More travelers also meant more tax revenue. Taxable sales related to tourism and recreation jumped 8.8 percent to $31.5 billion from January through May, the latest statewide data available. Hotel taxes rose along with the average daily room rate, which was up 3.6 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the tourism group said.
Last year, a record 87.3 million people visited Florida and spent a combined $67.2 billion in the state, according to Visit Florida figures.
The Orlando area's main convention-and-visitors bureau is also projecting a record year locally. Visit Orlando has said it expects 56.4 million people to visit the area in 2012, compared with 55.2 million last year.
Orlando-area hotels are pacing ahead of last year's performance, with properties filling 72.8 percent of their rooms during the first half of the year, compared with 70.8 percent for the same period last year. The average daily room price, meanwhile, was up 3.4 percent to $102.51 during the first six months of 2012 compared with a year earlier, according to data released last month by Smith Travel Research.
Staff writer Doreen Hemlock contributed to this report. email@example.com or 407-420-5664
(c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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