Suncoast tourism numbers outpace state numbers

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SARASOTA - More than a million people in Florida work in tourism-related jobs. The state says tourists spent a record amount of money here in 2012, and the Suncoast shares the benefits.

The state says that nearly 90 million visitors spent more than $70 billion last year, about 7% more than in 2011. The Suncoast numbers increased even more, thanks in part to places like the Van Wezel, and of course beach weather for most of winter remains our main attraction.

If you walked Lido Beach Friday, you shared the sand with people from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and someone from every New England state -- just on one day.

Visit Sarasota County says that tourists spent almost 14% more in 2012 than the year before, twice the increase that the state as a whole saw. And that the strong year last year perpetuates itself.

"People weren't able to get rooms where they wanted to. So you saw a lot of people coming down, making sure they got the hotel rooms early. That creates even more demand," says Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County.

So how did this area do twice as well as the state overall? Haley says it's places like the Van Wezel, as the arts and culture make Sarasota stand out among the other places in Florida that also have sun and sand.