TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) – The came from Canada, Great Britain and Brazil. They came from France, Fiji and dozens of other countries.

They played at our theme parks, sunned themselves on our beaches and spent tons of money.

Visit Florida, the state’s marketing division, said Thursday that preliminary numbers show in the first three months of this year there was 2.4 percent increase in tourism compared to the same period last year. Those 23.4 million visitors included a 2.7-percent increase in Canadian tourists and a 13-percent increase in people visiting from overseas. There was also a 1.2 percent increase in domestic visitors.

“On the heels of a record year for the Florida tourism industry in 2011, it’s encouraging to see the trend of more visitors and more jobs extending into 2012,” said Governor Rick Scott.

Tourism employment showed growth for the 24th straight month, with the industry adding more than 19,000 jobs in the past year.

“We know that every 85 visitors support one Florida job, so the continued increase in travelers to our great state equals a strengthened Florida economy and much-needed employment,” said Tony Lapi, president of Visit Florida’s board of directors.

Tourism and recreation taxable sales saw and increase in January and February 2012 (last reported month), representing an 8.7 percent increase over the same period in 2011.

As the state’s leading industry, tourism generates $60 billion annually and keeps more than a million people employed.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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