Florida attracting more visitors, revenue

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida’s new tourism numbers are in – and they’re huge. In the first nine months of 2016, there have been 85,000,000 visitors.

It’s the state’s third best tourism quarter ever. In Pinellas County alone, bed tax collections will top $50 million this year. That figure has grown 60 percent in five years.

On Monday night Mandalay Boulevard on Clearwater Beach was busy with visitors. Chilly temperatures didn’t keep the tourists away.

The United Kingdom is the number one place these tourists come from, but visitors visit Pinellas County from all over the world, including Latin America, Brazil, Germany, New York and the West Coast of the United States.

“It’s just sun because in Germany now, it’s dark and cold. So, we wanted to escape the weather,” Thomas Dreesen said.

Dreesen and his family aren’t the only visitors flocking to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, which is one of Florida’s top tourism destinations this year.

Officials say more tourist dollars mean fewer tax dollars for year-round residents. “When you consider that tourism here in Pinellas County is $9 billion a year direct economic impact. About a 100,000 jobs. It’s really tough to overstate the importance of the tourism economy,” Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater Executive Director David Downing said. “It pays for the Tropicana Field, for the spring training facilities … for a lot of different things that we take for granted.”

Steve Donovan is selling more rides on his pedicabs as people flock to the area. “I’ve seen an increase drastically, especially since all the new hotels are coming up. There’s been a lot more people here on the beach,” Donovan said.

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