Record-Breaking 97.3 Million Tourists Visited Florida Last Year

The rest of the country sure likes to make fun of Florida, but that hasn't stopped tourists from visiting the Sunshine State in record numbers.

Earlier today, Gov. Rick Scott and state tourism officials unveiled tourism data from 2014 that estimates 97.3 million people visited Florida last year, a record high.

That number is up significantly by 3.9 percent from the 93.7 million who visited Florida in 2013, the previous record mark. It's the fourth year in a row in which tourism numbers have broken records.

"Not only are visitors coming to our state at record levels, but there are also a record number of Floridians employed in our tourism industry," Scott said in a statement. "Florida's natural beauty, pristine beaches and exciting attractions continue to bring countless visitors to our state and provide valuable jobs for our families."

Visit Florida, the state's official tourism board, estimates that of those visitors, about 11.5 million are from overseas, with 3.8 million Canadians in particular visiting the state. That's a 2.6 percent increase in international travel from the previous year.

The state also notes that Floridians visiting other parts of Florida is also up, with 20.2 million pleasure trips being taking from one part of the state to another (which is kind of noteworthy considering the state's population is only 19.89 million people).

Scott also noted that the number of Floridians employed in the tourism industry is also up. The data says 1,135,700 Floridians work in tourist-related industries, about 5 percent of the state's total population. The number of those jobs is up 3.6 percent.

"Tourism is the number one driver of the state's economy, and we are proud of the Sunshine State's four consecutive years of record visitor turnout," Bill Lupfer, chair of the Visit Florida Public Affairs Committee and president and CEO of the Florida Attractions Association, said in a statement. "This means greater revenues for the state and more than 1 million Florida jobs supported by tourism."

The numbers aren't surprising considering other recently announced tourism records.

PortMiami was the busiest passenger cruise port in the world in the 2014 fiscal year, with 4.8 million vacationers passing through the port. Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale took second place with 3.88 million passengers.

The 2014 tourism numbers for the greater Miami area are expected later this month, but preliminary data, including a 1.1 percent increase in hotel occupancy from 2013 to 2014, indicate local tourism also might have a record-breaking year.

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Kyle Munzenrieder