Is Governor Scott right about Florida's tourism? A closer look at who's been visiting:
Bottom Line: With Governor Scott still threatening a potential veto of the state budget passed by the legislature recently due to the cutting of two of his favorite programs, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, I thought it was a worth a closer look at the first quarter tourism numbers for Florida. All throughout 2016 Florida continued to pull out gains in tourism despite declines from international travelers. A 7%+ increase in domestic tourism compensated for significant declines with many foreign tourists due to economic/currency factors. So was that just an issue last year? Has foreign tourism started to rebound in 2017? The answers are no and no.
Florida's first quarter tourism numbers show the following:
- 3.2% increase in domestic tourists
- 1.9% decrease in foreign tourists
Part of what's notable about the decline in foreign tourists is that these are declines on top of declines from last year. But still some might say what's the big deal? We had a still had a 2.5% increase in tourism overall. Here's the composition of Florida's economy:
- Total economy: $815 billion
- Tourism: $89.1 billion
That means that 11% of Florida's total economic output is purely tourist based. If we had any weakness in tourism you can easily see how it could have magnified impact throughout our economy. Right now the US economy is still growing but what if we had a recession? We know how quickly domestic tourism is hit with any economic blip but if foreign tourism is growing the hit to our economic is mitigated. Plus foreign tourists typically typically spend more per visitor when they are here.
This isn't meant to advocate for the Governor's position specifically, but it's irresponsible to just look at tourism having increased again in the first quarter and assumed all is well. We're now in our 2nd year of declines with foreign tourists and that will matter more than it seems to today somewhere along the way.