Photo: Jim Damaske/Tampa Bay Times
Source markets: Foreign travelers flock to Florida
Foreign travelers are coming to Florida in record numbers.
International tourism is up for the eighth straight year, with 15.3 million foreigners visiting the state in 2014, a 3% rise from 2013. Canada remained the top tourism- generating market, contributing one of every four foreign visitors. Brazil was No. 2, and the United Kingdom was No. 3.
While those countries likely will continue to dominate Florida’s international tourism sector, China and other parts of Europe and South America also show increasing promise, say state tourism leaders.
The U.S. Commerce Department predicts that the strongest growth in European visitors through 2019 will come fro m France and Germany, as well as the U.K. China is expected to generate 3.1 million more visitors to the U.S. between 2013 and 2019. And an additional 1.6 million visitors will come from South America, led by Argentina, Brazil and Colombia.
Political and economic turmoil in Venezuela, however, is leading to a steep decline in that country’s contribution to international tourism arrivals. Last year, Florida hosted 115,000 fewer Venezuelan visitors, an 18% drop.
Because overseas visitors tend to take longer trips than domestic visitors, they end up spending more money — and playing an outsized role in Florida’s traveland- tourism economy.
Another key point of difference: International tourists typically visit multiple parts of the state, while domestic tourists generally “park” in one spot, says Susannah Costello, Visit Florida’s vice president of global brand. To attract new and repeat visitors, she says, the state’s international marketing efforts place an increasing emphasis on a diversity of attractions.
“Our strongest case is the fact that we have it all — incredible theme parks and beaches, as well as a full complement of offthe- beaten path, unique experiences,” she says.
ARGENTINA — Aerolineas Argentinas plans to begin offering twice-aweek flights in July between Miami and Cordoba.
CHINA — Miamibased Royal Caribbean will base another new cruise ship in China in 2016. The 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas will join the company’s Quantum of the Seas, which debuted in 2014 and begins sailing year-round in China this summer.
MALAYSIA — Resort and casino developer Genting Group of Malaysia plans to buy luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises for $550 million. Genting also owns 28% of Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line and plans to develop a casino resort on the former site of the Miami Herald building in downtown Miami. f MEXICO — Mexico’s Efit signed a deal with North Palm Beach-based chain BurgerFi to develop 40 fast-casual restaurants in and around Mexico City in the next five to seven years. Efit’s partners have worked with Domino’s Pizza and other U.S. chains in Mexico.