Fla. tourism hitting record numbers despite hurricanes, Zika travel warnings

$9 billion economic impact in Pinellas County
Posted at 8:02 PM, Nov 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-25 20:02:27-05

Florida tourism is now on pace for a record-setting year, despite the state experiencing two hurricanes and travel warnings stemming from the spread of Zika. 

Gov. Rick Scott announcing Monday Florida saw 26.9 million visitors between June 1 and September 30, a 5% increase from the same summer period in 2015. 

Gov. Scott set a goal of attracting 115 million visitors to the state this year, up from 106 million last year. 

"The business was just excellent," said Raymond Rodriguez, who manages two Clearwater Beach hotels and Sharky's Beach Bar. 

Stats that translate into dollars for Raymond Rodriguez - who manages two hotels and Sharky's Beach Bar. 

"I saw the needle going up every single day," said Rodriguez. "Meaning there's a lot more foot traffic out there." 

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater reports 37 straight months of year-to-year tourism tax growth. 

Tourism is the area's biggest money-making industry, pumping $9 billion into the Pinellas County economy and providing more than 100-thousand jobs. 

"This is economic development at its core," said Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater Executive Director David Downing. 

The industry has experienced steady growth despite summer travel concerns sparked by the Zika virus. 

The United Kingdom even issuing a travel warning in August, urging its citizens to stay out of Florida. 

"I didn't see a big concern down here at the beach," said Rodriguez. "Seriously, I didn't see it."

And newly-released numbers show Florida still shined. 

"Have they posed any direct, huge, measurable economic threat to Pinellas County right now? The answer is no," said Downing. "What we focus on is how have we done year over year and how are we moving forward."