MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – If the Sunshine State seemed a little more crowded to you last year, it was.
A record 86 million people visited Florida in the 2011 calendar year, preliminary state estimates show.
The numbers suggest that the worst of the state’s economic woes are over.
VisitFlorida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, said the number of visitors in 2011 was up 4.4 percent over 2010, and above the 84.5 million visitors the state had in 2007. VisitFlorida also said travel-related employment rose to a near record high of 1.013 million, adding 38,000 jobs, 3.9 percent more than in 2010.
The growth in tourism was driven by overseas visits, which increased 16.1 percent, the state said. A 5.7 percent growth in Canadian visits put Canadian tourism at an all-time high.
Also, it was a banner year for Florida residents vacationing in their own state, VisitFlorida said. “Since Florida relies on tourism to generate nearly a quarter of the state’s sales tax revenue and to employ over one million Floridians, it’s very encouraging to see that the industry experienced a record year,” Tony Lapi, chairman of the VisitFlorida board, said in a statement.
Preliminary data from airports showed a nearly 12 percent increase in commercial air travel, as well.
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