Visitors soaking up sunshine in record numbers - FOX 13 News

Visitors soaking up sunshine in record numbers

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CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

It's a year for the books and the travel brochures: a record-breaking 89.3-million visitors flocked to Florida in 2012.

Many visitors to Clearwater Beach say they booked their trip to swap snow for sand.

"Oh, it's great. Especially when I call my husband and he says it's only 18 degrees back home!" laughed Margo Keyes, who is visiting from outside of Albany, New York.

The new numbers show international travel to Florida is also up, with more than 10 million overseas visitors to the state in 2012. In Pinellas County, most international visitors were from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

While the new statistics for the Sunshine State are sizzling, top tourism leaders say they're hoping the numbers only go higher.

"I think there's a real opportunity for the industry to continue to grow and provide jobs for Floridians and exceptional experiences to travelers from around the world," said Visit Florida President & CEO Will Seccombe.

Beaches and theme parks are still the top destinations for tourists. Still, cultural attractions like St. Petersburg's Dali Museum and sporting events like spring training are helping create more than 33,000 additional tourism jobs.

"We have over a million people making their livelihoods making exceptional experiences for our guests. I think they are really a huge competitive advantage for the state," Seccombe said.

Some of Pinellas County's tourism figures are higher than the state's average. The number of European visitors to Clearwater and St. Petersburg is up by nearly seven percent from 2011 and the number of Canadian visitors increased by almost five percent.

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