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Florida Tourism Unexpectedly Rises in Wake of BP Oil Spill

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In a somewhat unexpected twist, Florida tourism increased by 3.5 percent over the same time period last year, even in the wake of the BP oil spill that threatened the state’s travel and tourism industry.

On Monday, Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, announced that despite the bad publicity surrounding the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, more than 20.8 million visitors came to Florida during the second quarter of 2010.

Between the months of April and June, when the oil spill was at its most critical, the number of domestic tourists rose by 2.9 percent. That means around 18.3 million Americans visited Florida, despite the threat of oil washing ashore from the site of the Deepwater Horizon leak in the Gulf.
However, the biggest growth came from international tourism, which increased by 11.9 percent over 2009. According to estimates, 1.9 million overseas visitors made Florida their travel destination, contradicting predictions that overseas guests would be dissuaded by bad press. 

Canadian flag motif - Canadian tourists boost Florida tourismAlso unfazed by the threat of oily beaches were Canadian tourists, who gave a significant bump to Florida tourism. Our neighbors up north made up 3.4 percent of total visitors to the state, and visitors from Canada increased by 10.4 percent over last year.

Many are crediting the aggressive actions of Florida Governor Charlie Crist with the better-than-expected tourism numbers. Over the last five months, the governor secured more than $82 million in grants from BP.

The grants not only went toward response efforts to the oil spill, but also went toward a multi-million-dollar tourism advertising campaign to combat bad publicity.

The Sunshine State’s aggressive tourism marketing efforts included Web feeds that gave prospective visitors a real-time look at Florida’s beaches, reassuring travelers with up-to-date information.

Tourism is one of Florida’s top industries, bringing in $65.2 billion a year in revenue and generating about 21 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue.

Tourism is equally important to the state’s employment figures with leisure and hospitality jobs accounting for about 900,000 of the state’s 7.3 million workers.

By Adriana Padilla at PeterGreenberg.com.

Related links: BizJournals.com, Miami Herald

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