Tourism in Florida on the rise, more visit state in 2011 than year before

Local businesses, hotels feeling tourism boost

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - Florida's local economic engine, tourism, is humming in high gear and did so for the majority of 2011.

Tourism directors at "Visit Florida" said more people chose to visit Florida in 2011 than they did the year before.

In 2011, tourism officials said just under 86 million visitors packed into the Sunshine State, a near five percent boost from 20-10.

"No, it doesn't surprise me at all. I would like to stay here forever," said Erika Roser, a tourist from Sweden.

Tourism directors in Palm Beach County said more people means higher bed tax collections, up 10 percent. It also means all the extra visitors are pumping more dollars into local businesses.

"I think maybe there's a little more sense of security that people have. That they're not as afraid to go out a spend a little bit of money," said Randy Simler, general manager at Johnny Longboats Tropical Grill.

While Palm Beach County saw a big draw, it is not the only area to see an increase in visitors. The Treasure Coast also saw a boost in tourism but for different reasons.

"We are some what undiscovered, which is what makes us unique. It's a challenge," said Rozeta Mahboubi, Martin County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It is a challenge Mahboubi said is now helping aid to an increase in tourism along the Treasure Coast.
Mahboubi said much of the Treasure Coast has a small town feel.

"People are just so nice. Everybody says 'hi' to you. And you feel safe. You can walk at nine o'clock at night," said Thomas and Gloria Coil, visitors from Rhode Island.

Tourism officials in both Palm Beach and Martin County said preliminary numbers show 2012 is already inching closer to number 2011 just a few months into the new year.

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