At Busch Gardens in Tampa Friday morning, Gov. Rick Scott said more people than ever are visiting Florida. From July through September, Florida welcomed 21.9 million visitors.
"The Sunshine State has experienced two consecutive years of record-setting visitation by travelers from 184 counties," Scott said. "We hope to build on that momentum in 2014 and beyond to make the Sunshine State the number one travel destination in the world."
From January through August, tourists spent more than $58 billion in Florida, Scott said.
"Our entire GDP for the state for a year is around $800 billion dollars, so when tourists come in the first eight months of the year [and] spend almost $60 billion dollars, that's a significant amount of investment in our state, " Scott said. "It pays a lot of our sales taxes, and creates a lot of jobs."
Scott also credited tourism jobs for the decrease in the unemployment rate in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
"The Tampa-St.Pete-Clearwater area has had the biggest job growth year-over-year in the last year," Scott said. "It's been over 40,000 jobs and the unemployment in this area went down from 9.1 to 7 percent, which is what the statewide average is."
More than 72 million people visited Florida from January through September, an increase of 3.4 percent over the same period last year.
"This is where everybody wants to come. I've done 10 trade missions around the world," Scott said. "People want to come to Florida. They love Tampa, they love Orlando, they love Miami. They love all of our beaches, our weather. "