The first half of 2018 was once again another record for Florida tourism. 65.5 million people visited the state over the year’s first six months, according to data released by Visit Florida and Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday.
That is a 5.9 percent increase from 2017, including 58 million domestic visitors, 5.2 million overseas visitors and 2.3 Canadian visitors.
“Florida’s tourism industry and our entire economy continue to flourish. After having record-breaking tourism in 2017, Florida started off the first half of 2018 by welcoming back-to-back record quarters of visitors,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “These record-breaking achievements allow our economy to create more jobs and adds to our success of having nearly 1.6 million private-sector jobs created in seven and a half years while our state’s unemployment rate is the lowest in over a decade.”
Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing corporation, estimates that 28.3 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in the second quarter of 2018, reflecting a 7.1 percent increase over the same period last year. Estimates also show that 2.6 million overseas visitors and 933,000 Canadians came to Florida in quarter two of 2018.
Total enplanements at Florida’s 18 major airports in quarter two 2018 increased 6.1 percent over the same period the previous year, with a record 24.2 million enplaned passengers. Southwest Florida’s two area airports, Southwest Florida International and Punta Gorda, both saw increases in passengers in 2018. Southwest Florida International saw a 5.2 percent increase, including setting an all-time record for passengers in a single month in March with 1.38 million, and breaking 1 million in February for the first time ever. At Punta Gorda, even with the loss of scheduled flights from Frontier Airlines, the airport saw traffic increase by over 25 percent compared to 2017.
“Back-to-back record quarters in the first six months of this year show that the Florida tourism industry has continued its tremendous momentum,” Ken Lawson, President and CEO of Visit Florida, said. “Visit Florida will continue to develop cutting edge marketing programs that highlight the diversity of our state so that we can attract more visitors, create more jobs, and make Florida the number one vacation destination in the world.”
Florida saw record breaking statistics in the second quarter of 2018, but with the toxic algae and red tide plaguing Southwest Florida waterways, it’s unlikely the third quarter will see similar results.
Annual visitors that make the trip down to popular tourist spots like Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach have been met with the smell and sight of dead fish in recent months. The tourism industry, struggling to stay afloat because of the red tide and algae, will most likely remain the same as tourists go elsewhere and state leaders work to clean up Southwest Florida waters. Earlier this week, Lee County waived beach parking fees on Fort Myers Beach in an effort to bring people back to businesses on the water.
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