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Amid potential budget cuts, first quarter tourism is at a record high in Florida

Posted at 6:57 PM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-15 18:57:06-04

Tourism is at an all time high in Florida. Monday, NewsChannel 5 learned in the first three months of this year, the state saw a record 31 million tourists. However, the record number comes at a time when state lawmakers want to cut money to promote Florida tourism.

Governor Rick Scott believes the numbers prove “Visit Florida” works, and the increase in visitors is also reflected here in Palm Beach County.

It’s been a strong start for one of West Palm Beach’s newest hotels. The Hilton in West Palm Beach is a little more than a year old and business just keeps getting better.

“It’s been a really positive story for us,” said the hotel’s general manager John Parkinson.

In a industry that relies largely on visitors coming to town, the fact that tourism is on the rise here in Florida has been good for business.

“We’ve seen our projections increase month after month and our results have increased month after month,” said Parkinson.

In fact, Florida saw a record 31 million tourists in just the first quarter of the year. It’s a 2.5 percent increase compared to the first quarter of last year.  And Palm Peach County felt a similar first quarter boost, too.

“We ran an 84 percent occupancy which is a full point over last year,” said Jorge Pesquera, the CEO and President of Discover the Palm Beaches, the official tourism marketing corporation for Palm Beach County.

For Pesquera and Discover the Palm Beaches, these positive numbers just add fuel to the fire in the fight to protect Visit Florida and all it does to help market the state.

“The idea that people are going to continue to show up in the State of Florida without a strong and vigorous marketing effort is really very misguided,” said Pesquera.

“We have to understand, we have to keep marketing because its tied to jobs,” said Governor Rick Scott.
Scott celebrated those numbers down in Miami Monday as proof that the marketing efforts are working and that a 67 percent cut to Visit Florida’s budget would be detrimental.

“I’ve got a lot of options. I can veto the whole budget. I can veto a portion of the budget, a line of the budget. And I can do special sessions. So, I’m looking at all those options,” said Scott.

Though he’s still not saying which option he plans to go with.