The number of people visiting Florida in the first quarter of 2012 rose 2.4 percent from a year ago, when tourism already was rebounding.
Preliminary figures from Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing organization, show 23.4 million visitors came to the Sunshine State from January to March.
Florida has added 19,200 travel-related jobs from a year ago. The total tourism-related employment of 1,027,500 is the highest since the first quarter of 2008, during the early days of the Great Recession.
An estimated 19.7 million domestic visitors came to Florida during the most recent quarter, a 1.2 increase, while international travelers rose 13 percent, at 2.4 million. Canadian tourism, a separate category, rose 2.7 percent to 1.4 million.
Tourism-related tax collections in Sarasota and Manatee counties hit record levels in the first months of 2012, while hotel, motel and condominium occupancy rates soared to new highs.
Collier County saw about 551,500 visitors in the first quarter of 2012, up 7.8 percent over the same period in 2011.
Direct visitor spending in Collier County also is up as visitors spent more than $537.5 million in the first quarter, up 12.9 percent from the same time last year.
More than 816,000 visitors came to Lee County in the first two months of 2012 compared to about 817,000 during the same time period just a year earlier; however, there was a double-digit increase in tourism tax revenue indicating that tourists were spending more this year.
Southwest Florida International Airport hosted about the same number of passengers during the month of March as a year ago. Year-to-date, the airport has also seen the same number of passengers as 2011.
Statewide, Florida’s 14 major airports saw a 2.5 percent increase in passengers during the first quarter.
Taxable sales related to tourism in Florida rose 8.7 percent increase in January and February, the most recent data available.
The average daily room rate rose 5.7 percent across the state while the occupancy rate for Florida hotels increased 2.7 percentage points in the first quarter