Florida tourism hits a record, but what's next?

Tampa, Florida -- Governor Rick Scott spent the morning under a roller coaster at Busch Gardens talking about record tourism numbers. leading to more than a million jobs.

But I wanted to ask the leaders there a bigger question: How do we keep that momentum going?

Gov. Scott was flanked by charts that show the state's tourism stats -- in number of visitors and how much they spend -- going in the right direction. The results are record-setting.

"Every 85 tourists is another job. So we love more and more tourists here," Scott said. "Plus they pay a lot of sales tax. They help us put more money into education and things like that."

Along with a generally improving economy nationwide, the various tourism chiefs at the event said doubling state spending on marketing Florida has paid off.

It helped increase the flood of tourists coming to Florida to a record 26.7 million in the first quarter of 2014. In the Tampa Bay area alone, tourists spent an all-time-high of more than $9 billion in 2013.

According to Visit Florida, 26.7 million visitors is the state's highest quarterly total. The state's tourism arm says the number of direct, travel-related jobs also was at a record high with 1.12 million Floridians employed in the industry.

Last year nearly 95 million people visited the state. Scott wants to boost that number to 100 million even though legislators did not increase funding for Visit Florida as much as he wanted.

But while leaders were at Busch Gardens to celebrate success -- I wanted to know: How can we do even better next year?

"What's the next step?" I asked Santiago Corrada. He's the CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the tourism marketing agency for Hillsborough County.

"It's always about bringing more and more visitors here," he replied. "So, we've got transportation issues that we have to work through. More hotels. Our partners -- our attractions like Busch Gardens continue to diversify."

"You could always have more dollars for marketing. Marketing, marketing, marketing brings more visitors to the destination."


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