Record year for Florida tourism industry

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- Early estimates say 2013 turned out to be a record breaking year for Florida tourism.

Governor Rick Scott says new numbers released by the state's tourism marketing agency, VISIT FLORIDA, shows 94.7 million visitors came to the Sunshine State last year. A 3.5 percent growth from the year before.

"Three years of record-breaking visitation and a record number of tourism-related jobs proves that tourism continues to be a vital force in Florida," said Tammy Gustafson, Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. "it also proves that our industry is directly tied to Florida's economic growth. This means we cannot let go of our effort to continuously advance Florida tourism."

State leaders say every 85 visitors to Florida creates one job.

VISIT FLORIDA is also reporting a record number of foreign tourists also visiting the Sunshine State; that includes 11.5 million visitors from overseas and 3.7 million Canadian visitors.

"We are incredibly encouraged to see domestic, Canadian, and overseas visitor numbers all peaking together in 2013 and look forward to continuing to build on this momentum in 2014 to make Florida the Number 1 travel destination in the world," said Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA.

In an effort to become the number 1 travel destination in the world, the governor is pushing lawmakers to provide a $100 million budget for VISIT FLORIDA to increase their efforts to market and support the state's tourism industry.  

The governor made Friday's announcement from Universal Orlando Resort where 3,500 new jobs are expected to be created with the development of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, as well as a new resort hotel and major renovations to the CityWalk Entertainment complex.