Florida Sees Record Breaking Tourism Spending in 2012 - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Florida Sees Record Breaking Tourism Spending in 2012

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Just in time for one of the biggest tourism draws of the year for our area, Governor Rick Scott announced 2012 as a record breaker for tourism spending.

One business owner, who remembers the impacts of both an economic recession and the BP oil spill, said he's starting to breath again.

As the sun set over the whales tail restaurant in Destin on Thursday, it's also, perhaps, symbolic.

After years of economic struggle, Florida's tourism based economy may now be stronger than ever.

"2011 was a definite improvement and 2012 was a great year for us," said Jay Nettles.

For this General Manager of Seascape Resorts, who owns "Whales Tail" and other accommodations along the Destin shoreline, its a step towards loosening a belt that's been cinched tight since the onset of the recession, and tighter during the gulf oil spill.

"Occupancy is definitely improving and pricing is getting back to a more normal situation, so we're very optimistic," he said.

His optimism is shared state wide.

Thursday, Visit Florida, the states official marketing organization, released its 2012 tourism spending estimates.

71.8 billion record breaking dollars were spent last year. That is a 6.8% increase over 2011.

"Whether it's direct or indirect, it basically touches every person in this county. It is the mechanism by which we get to enjoy such a wonderful place in the world," said Visit South Walton Marketing Director, John Ervin.

Ervin highlighted a commitment from Governor Scott, who gave 75 million dollars to Visit Florida's budget this year.

"The Governor is saying that's investing in Florida families, because that generates jobs, better jobs, and really we all know the economy of Florida," said Ervin.

Nobody knows this better than the people who live and breathe it everyday.

"I think everyone is breathing a sigh of relief to a certain extent," added Nettles.

In a statement, President and CEO of Visit Florida, Will Seccombe, said we're on target in 2013 to build on the momentum of the last two years and continue to make Florida the number 1 travel destination worldwide.