A Look At Florida’s Thriving Tourism Economy

If Florida was its own country, it would have the world’s 17th largest economy with a GDP of $1 trillion.

A massive chunk of that change is thanks to the Sunshine State’s top industry: Tourism.

Money, Money, Money!

Visit Florida, the Sunshine State’s destination marketing organization, released a study that revealed visitor spending reached a record $111.7 billion in 2016.

The largest out-of-state visitor spending sector was lodging – both commercial businesses and timeshares – which accounted for $31.8 billion.

Transportation followed lodging at $24.8 billion. The report factored in all forms of transportation airlines, taxis, limos, trains, rental cars and buses – in addition to how much was spent on gas.

Food and beverage was third at $23.1 billion. With a 4.2 percent increase over the prior year, food and beverage led spending growth. The most impressive part is that the report only included food and beverage sales at restaurants and bars. Food and beverages sold at hotels and similar establishments were factored into the stats for lodging.

Recreational spending was fourth at $16 billion, a modest growth of 0.6 percent, and retail spending was fifth at $15.9 billion, a robust 3.6 percent increase.

A total of $11.6 billion was generated in state and local tax revenue, which represented a 3.3 percent increase from the prior year.

In addition to everything mentioned above, out-of-state visitor spending supported a total of 1.4 million jobs with an earned income of $53 billion.

Breaking Records

The Sunshine State had a record 126.1 million visitors in 2018. Visit Florida estimated 111.8 million were domestic travelers, 10.8 million were from overseas and 3.5 million were Canadians.

It marked the eighth consecutive record year for Florida tourism and was a 6.2% increase from 2017.

The early numbers are pointing to another banner year for the Sunshine State. According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida broke another visitation record. The first quarter of 2019 saw an all-time high of 35.7 million visitors, a 5.8 percent increase from the first quarter of 2018. Of the 35.7 million visitors, 31.6 million were domestic travelers, 1.4 million were Canadian and more than 2.6 million were from overseas.

“An all-time record quarter of visitation is exciting news for the entire state,” DeSantis said. “As we work to diversify Florida’s economy, it is critical that we keep visitation to Florida, and the revenue it generates, healthy and robust.”

Swamped With Visitors

Average visitation to the Everglades National Park has been around 1 million guests. That in itself is impressive. However, what really stands out is how much those visitors spent in neighboring communities.   

In a 2015 study, the National Park Service estimated visitor spending supported 1,552 jobs and pumped $155.5 million into the local economy.

Combined with the other three South Florida National Park Service units – Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve – visitation was close to 2.9 million. The visitor spending associated with those parks also pumped more than $231 million into local communities and supported 3,380 jobs.

“Visiting one of the four units of the National Park Service in south Florida is a great way to introduce this part of the country and all that it offers. National Park Service tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well,” Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks Superintendent Pedro Ramos said at the time. “We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”