Photo: Florida has 825 miles of beaches, including Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin. (Courtesy of Visit Florida)
On Monday, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced the state had hosted 85 million tourists through the first nine months of 2016, a pace that would likely result in a new record total for the year.
According to The Associated Press, Governor Scott revealed the 85 million visitors also set a record for the most ever through the first nine months of a year during a press conference at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
Despite a tough year which saw a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and an outbreak of the Zika virus in the region, Governor Scott heaped praise on the Visit Florida tourism board for keeping tourists coming to the state.
“Visit Florida does an incredible job of marketing our state and keeping all of our tourism partners, which include both large and small businesses, updated on how to keep our visitors informed when our state faces challenges like the Zika virus, hurricanes and the terrorist attack at Pulse Nightclub,” Governor Scott said in a statement.
Part of Governor Scott’s focus since taking office has been on tourism, and he has increased the state’s spending on Visit Florida to nearly $80 million. As seen from the increase in visitors despite major issues, the plan is working.
While the record-breaking visitor totals have been a win for Florida, some critics—including incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran—have openly questioned whether spending that much money on tourism campaigns is justified.
For 2015, a total of around 106 million people visited Florida. During the third quarter of last year, around 25.6 million tourists arrived in the state, and an estimated 26.9 million people came during the same three-month period in 2016.