Thousands of fans from East Carolina and Ohio Universities flocked to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg Monday for the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
"My team's in town, so I had to come," said Seth Abrecht, who is an Ohio alumnus, but now lives in the Bay Area.
After ECU's 37-20 win, the excitement poured out onto the St. Pete streets and into nearby stores and restaurants.
David Downing, with Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater, said the bowl game and holiday week caps off a huge year for that area.
"We're counting on this week being a nice P.S. for the end of the year," Downing said. "We've broken every record there is for tourism to Pinellas County."
Downing said more than 14 million people visited Pinellas this year, creating a 14 percent increase in hotel revenue, both of which are records.
"We've come roaring back from the recession and from kind of the depressed economy that we've seen in the past several years," he said.
Rolando Moya, who owns the dessert store Kilwins, said business owners love this time of year.
"It's going to be our first holiday season but we expect a lot of people these two weeks," said Moya, whose shop opened 10 months ago. "It has really been a surprise. I think it's really great for Saint Pete, to have such a lot of people coming from all over the world."
Downing said the focus now is already on 2014 and tapping into the South American market. Tourism officials believe there is a lot of revenue to bring in by marketing in that part of the world.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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