The number of tourists flocking to Florida has grown to a record number. And it's a big one.
Gov. Rick Scott visited Disney World today and announced that 105 million tourists made their way to Florida last year. That's according to preliminary estimates prepared by Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm.
That beats the previous high of 98.5 million. And it's the fifth year in a row a record number of tourists came to Florida.
In the Tampa Bay area, tourism numbers are up almost 15 percent from this time last year, according to president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, Santiago Corrada.
"We are certainly contributing to those record numbers," Corrada said. "We have been breaking records on the Hillsborough County side here on the bay month after month after month."
"We really take for granted this beautiful destination we live in and others around the world are starting to recognize that its just an amazing place to visit and so we hope to continue to set records. February has stared out extremely strong and we know we have a great summer ahead of us."
Corrada attributes the rise in tourism to the Bay area's growing arts and entertainment scene, "an improving economy, great weather and strong marketing."
The $ 105 million mark in Florida overall for 2015 beats the goal of 100 million tourists set by Scott, who has pushed for more money for tourism marketing.
Most of the visitors were from the United States, but millions also came from overseas and from Canada.
Many tourists arrive in the Florida Keys -- and that's why Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores says she is sponsoring a measure in the Florida Legislature that would send $20 million their way. The money would be used to for environmental projects, such as the protection of the nation's only tropical reefs.
“The Florida Keys is a huge economic driver for the entire state of Florida,” she said. “It is incumbent on the state to invest to insure that the environment, that the natural resources that are important to the Keys are preserved.”
Scott is setting a higher target for tourism officials in 2016. He wants see 115 million visitors come to the Sunshine State this year.