CLEARWATER, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to highlight $74 million in the “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget to continue attracting record numbers of tourists to Florida. Last year, Florida welcomed a record 98.9 million visitors, who spent a total of $73 billion while in the Sunshine State.
Governor Scott said, “Florida is the best tourist destination for families. Every 85 visitors to our state support one job, and a growing tourism industry means more opportunities for our families and a stronger economy. With countless attractions like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium throughout our state, we are welcoming a record number of visitors to Florida each year. I look forward to our investments in VISIT FLORIDA continuing to grow jobs and promote Florida as the ultimate travel destination across the world.”
The number of travel-related jobs is up 4.8 percent over last year, employing 1.2 million Floridians. For every dollar that was invested in VISIT FLORIDA last year, the state saw a return of $3.20. This May, Governor Scott announced that according to VISIT FLORIDA, more than 28 million visitors came to Florida in the first quarter of 2015, an increase of 6.2 percent over last year and the largest first quarter for visitation in the state’s history.
Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, said “Our thriving tourism industry employs 1.2 million Floridians and is essential to maintaining the growing economy in our state. VISIT FLORIDA is grateful to Governor Scott for his support as we continue our work of promoting everything the Sunshine State has to offer and attracting another record number of visitors.”
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium rescues and rehabilitates injured animals in order to release them back into their natural habitat. They also provide long term care when animals cannot be released. In 2014, the Aquarium welcomed approximately 600,000 visitors, and are on track to welcome 800,000 visitors this year. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium also hosted the filming of both Dolphin Tale movies, which had an economic impact of $1.3 billion for the state from 2012-2014.
David Yates, President and CEO of Clearwater Marine Aquarium, said, “In the past four years, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has welcomed an incredible number of visitors from across the country, and we appreciate Governor Scott’s focus on growing the economy and investing in tourism. The animals at our facility, including the beloved Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale movies, serve as symbols of courage, perseverance and hope, and we are proud to share their stories with the thousands of individuals who visit our Aquarium each year.”
Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “Florida is a world-class travel destination, and our state’s record number of tourists last year helps us continue to build on that reputation. More visitors mean more jobs for Florida’s families, which is why Governor Scott and the Legislature continue to invest in our thriving tourism industry.”
Senator Jeff Brandes said, “Governor Scott’s work to improve the economic climate and make investments in VISIT FLORIDA helps make Florida a top tourist destination. With this investment, our great attractions and beautiful climate, we look forward to welcoming another record number of visitors to our great state.”
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said, “I am proud to join Governor Scott in recognizing our improved economic climate, our recent record tourism numbers, and the over 1 million Floridians that are employed by the tourism industry. By continuing to make strategic investments in tourism, we are working to build on this exciting success and create even more opportunities for families across the state.”
Majority Leader Dana Young said, “The $74 million for VISIT FLORIDA in the “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget is great news for our state. This money will help Florida recruit more tourists to enjoy our world renowned beaches, attractions, and climate. We have made impressive gains in tourism, and we are excited to welcome more people to Florida.”
Rep. Larry Ahern said, “As Florida’s tourism industry continues to boom, I want to thank Governor Scott on behalf of beach communities and tourist destinations around the state for being so supportive. The growth of our state and our state’s economy is tied to those who choose to visit us. I applaud the Governor for keeping his focus on making Florida the best place to work, play, retire and visit.”
Representative Kathleen Peters said, “I thank Governor Scott for his investments in VISIT FLORIDA. Every 85 visitors that come to Florida support one Florida job, and we look forward to reaching our goal of 100 million visitors in Florida this year.”
Representative Chris Sprowls said, “Every year, more and more visitors come to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and this year they are on track to welcome 800,000 visitors from across the country. Funding for VISIT FLORIDA will help highlight attractions that create jobs, like the aquarium, and show visitors that Florida is the best travel destination in the world.”
Representative James Grant said, “I am grateful to Governor Scott for his support as we work to continue welcoming record numbers of visitors to the Sunshine State. The tourism industry is directly tied to Florida’s economy and is essential to job growth. Last year, 99 million visitors came to Florida and spent $73 billion, and we know VISIT FLORIDA will continue to recruit even more visitors to the Sunshine State.”
Representative Chris Latvala said, “I am proud Florida is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and that we on our way to reaching our goal of 100 million visitors in Florida. I congratulate Governor Scott for making important investments in tourism, which will greatly pay off for Florida’s economy and families.”