Suncoast, state seeing increase in number of visitors

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SARASOTA - Tourists are visiting the state of Florida in record numbers. According to Visit Florida, nearly 23 million people visited the state in the third quarter of this 2013 -- a nearly 2% jump over the same time in 2012. And many of the visitors seem to be making the Suncoast their destination.

"We decided to come up and see the Chalk Festival." Gary Balch is one of thousands of tourist who flock to the Suncoast for various events. But this weekend’s visitors are just part of a bigger trend.

"Just noticed this morning the license plates from Canada, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania. They’re here, you can see them out there on the highway." Rob Ferguson with Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch says in the past few months, the tourists have visited his hotel and the area in record numbers. "The community as a whole saw about a 10% increase so far this year, so we are expecting things to continue on upwards."

Ferguson is right. According to officials from the Bradenton Area Visitor’s Bureau, the entire state is seeing a record number of tourists. Figures show about 22.9 million visitors came to the state in the third quarter alone.

And officials say the goal is to push that number even higher. "The Governor has put a pretty high standard on Visit Florida to achieve about 100 million visitors this fiscal year; that kind of goes with the budget increase. We've seen just in September alone a 3% increase over last September," says Debbie Meihls.

Officials say those numbers translate to a better local economy.

"Tourism creates jobs, which we need very much." Steve Queior is with the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. He thinks the increased visitors are helping boost the job market and promoting the circulation of money in the area. "Studies show that money gets spent in 6 different places. So it might start in a hotel or restaurant or a retail store, but then it gets turned over in the local economy six or seven times before it leaves, so it really ends up helping all of us."

In addition, Queior says many of the tourists who visit the area turn around and move here -- which he says also promote the area growth.