Chamber Shout Out Section: Why Tourism Matters to Florida

By: José A. Fajardo, Orlando Inc.

Did you know that more people visited Florida in 2013 than live in 33 states combined? In fact, our state welcomed more than 94 million people from all 50 states and more than 180 different countries in 2013- a record number for Florida.

Florida has a lot to offer visitors. From endless miles of beaches to the diverse attractions found around the state, it’s no wonder our state is set to surpass New York as the third largest state in the nation.

And in Orlando, we are no strangers to welcoming visitors. In 2013, Orlando alone welcomed 59 million visitors, beating out New York as the most visited city. According to International Business Times:

“In the battle for U.S. tourism supremacy, there are really only two competitors: New York [City] and Orlando. The rivals have vied for the title of most-visited U.S. destination for years, but the winner has never been more definitive than in 2013, when Orlando welcomed a staggering 59 million visitors and set an all-time record for a U.S. destination.”

The recent economic recession hit Florida hard, and every single part of Central Florida felt it. But a funny thing happened on the way to downtown Orlando during that time. Our city and the private sector invested in projects that would not only draw visitors, but would create jobs. Projects like SeaWorld’s biggest and (literally) coolest expansion, Antarctica, Disney’s work on Fantasyland and Universal’s expansion of the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

It’s no surprise Florida’s recovery has been heralded as the model for economic success.

To Florida, and especially Orlando, more visitors means more than having greater options for entertainment. In our state, every 85 visitors equals to one new Florida job created. Florida’s tourism industry employs more than 1 million people, 30 percent of which is contained in two counties- Miami-Dade and, you guessed it, Orange.

Tourism is one of the three main sectors of Florida’s economy and it’s a fact that we are proud of. So far, the first half of 2014 has welcomed more than 50 million visitors – shattering all previous six-month figures. And in Orlando, we begin another fall with Harry, Mickey and Shamu and we continue to welcome visitors with a smile.

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