Published: Nov 15, 2012 10:58 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – According to preliminary estimates* released today by VISIT FLORIDA - the state’s official tourism marketing corporation - 21.9 million visitors came to Florida in the third quarter of 2012 (July-September), an increase of 3.5 percent over the same period in 2011.  Direct travel-related employment in Florida also rose 1.5 percent over third quarter 2011 to 1,020,200, an addition of 15,000 jobs since this time last year.

“More visitors to Florida mean more jobs for Florida families,” Governor Scott said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s clear our economy is headed in the right direction.  We will continue to work to grow Florida’s tourism industry and create more opportunities for the families of our state.” Tourism and recreation taxable sales for Florida from January through August 2012 (last reported month) were $49 billion, representing a year-over-year increase of 7.5 percent over the same period in 2011.  The average daily room rate rose 3.3 percent and the occupancy rate for Florida hotels increased 1.7 percentage points in Q3 2012 compared to Q3 2011.“Increased sales tax revenue and hotel occupancy rates may not seem flashy, but they are very positive indicators for Florida tourism and the state as a whole,” said Glenn Hastings, Chairman of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors and Executive Director of the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council. “With 30 straight months of job growth in the hospitality sector, VISIT FLORIDA and the entire industry’s efforts to make the Sunshine State the No. 1 travel destination in the world are providing jobs for more than 1 million Floridians.”

An estimated 18.9 million domestic visitors came to Florida during the third quarter of 2012, representing a 3.2 percent increase from the same period in 2011.  Florida experienced a 5.5 percent increase in overseas visitors and a 4.0 percent increase in Canadian travelers in Q3 2012 compared to Q3 2011.     “In today’s highly competitive travel marketplace, we are encouraged by the healthy increase in both domestic and international visitors,” said Will Seccombe, Acting President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA.  “The balanced growth we’re seeing in visitation from the U.S., Canada and overseas indicates the Florida tourism industry is strong and on pace for another record year.”

*Preliminary estimates are issued 45 days after the end of each calendar quarter. Final estimates are released when final data are received for all estimates in the report.