Reporter

Florida breaks tourism record again with 126M visitors in 2018

If Kissimmee’s tourism corridor seems more crowded lately, it’s not your imagination.

Florida drew 126.1 million out-of-state visitors last year, setting a new record for the eighth consecutive year, according to the state’s marketing agency, Visit Florida.

Overall, the total was a 6.2 percent jump over the 2017 record.

Visit Florida also noted a record 93.9 million airline passengers and slightly pricier lodging, thanks to a 3 percent bump in average daily room rates.

Despite overall growth, overseas visitors to Florida dropped 1 percent to 10.8 million, with tourists from Great Britain leading the fall off with a 6 percent decline.  

The number of International travelers from Canada grew 3 percent last year to 3,447,000, and visitors from Brazil  increased 8 percent to 1,110,000.

Stateside, the Sunshine State’s northern neighbors in Georgia visited Florida more than any other state, accounting for 9.8 of domestic tourists. They were followed by visitors from New York (8.5 percent) and Texas (5.5 percent).

Osceola County has also seen a big bump in tourism, according to the local marketing authority, Experience Kissimmee.

Over 8.8 million visitors came to the area last year, an increase of 900,000 people, according to Jodi DiSalle, vice president of marketing and communication at Experience Kissimmee.

All those visitors spent a lot of money on vacation, creating a nice boost to the local economy. A record $58 million in tourist development taxes were collected in 2018, approximately $6 million more than the previous year.

DiSalle attributes attracting tourists in part to on-going strategic marketing techniques staff at Experience Kissimmee use to reach more potential visitors in more ways.

”Our marketing has become extremely targeted and we know that we need to communicate with potential visitors year round,” she said.

Some big attractions, like Disney Hollywood Studio’s new Toy Story Land, opened last year, boosting visits to Osceola County hotels, restaurants and stores, DiSalle said.

With other big projects like Star Wars Land set to debut this year and major resorts like Margaritaville now open , the tourist trend is likely to continue across Central Florida in 2019.

“Our attractions continue to grow and evolve,” she said. “Osceola County continues to increase inventory for occupancy.”

State estimates indicate Florida had 112.4 million visitors in 2016; 106.6 million in 2015; 98.5 million in 2014; 94.1 million in 2013; 91.5 million in 2012; and 87.3 million in 2011.