Florida has another banner year in tourism

Tourism has another great year in Florida

Florida had another record-setting year for tourism despite natural disasters, a virus outbreak and a tragic attack on an Orlando nightclub.

Gov. Rick Scott will announce later today at the Brevard Zoo that nearly 113 million tourists visited the state last year. This is the sixth year in a row that the numbers have climbed. Nearly 107 million tourists visited in 2015.

Scott will hail the continued growth during a time when the agency that promotes tourism is coming under fire. House Republicans are backing a proposal to shut down Visit Florida amid questionable contracts, such as one that paid rap star Pitbull $1 million to promote the state.

The governor in a statement noted that Florida still attracted record numbers despite the Zika virus outbreak, two hurricanes and the attack at the Pulse Nightclub that left 49 dead.

Also expected to speak at the event are Visit Florida President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Lawson, Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Eric Garvey and Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten.

Winsten said he is “thrilled the governor chose to have it here at the zoo.”

He noted that the Space Coast’s tourism numbers are among the strongest in the state for year-over-year gains.

Garvey will discuss some of those local numbers. That includes a 15 percent increase in 2016 in the amount of money collected from Brevard County’s 5 percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals, as well as other measures of the growth in demand for hotel rooms.

“There’s lots of good things to talk about,” Garvey said.

Along with that, Scott and Lawson are likely to address a push by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, to eliminate Visit Florida and its state funding – which the governor opposes.

Scott has $76 million in his proposed 2017-18 budget for Visit Florida.

This is the governor’s second visit to the Space Coast in the last two weeks. He was at Port Canaveral on Feb. 6 to discuss his proposed transportation budget.