In a roller coaster economy, Broward County’s thriving tourism industry is generating its own brand of sunshine with 26 consecutive months of remarkable growth – leading all areas of Florida and much of the U.S. in hotel occupancy in December 2011 and January 2012, as well as starting the new year ahead of pace with tourist tax collections up 15% over 2011. You can see the results in busy hotels, bustling restaurants and attractions, a steady flow of arrivals and departures at our airport and cruise port and, best of all, healthy hospitality sector revenue and employment numbers.
Tourism helped to create 11,864 new jobs in 2011, with a total of 131,000 people currently working in the hospitality industry in Broward County.
A year ago, I predicted that Greater Fort Lauderdale would hit the 11 million visitor mark before the end of 2011. Through the hard work of the Convention & Visitors Bureau and our hospitality industry partners we achieved that record in less than 12 months. This is a remarkable achievement at a time when every discretionary dollar spent is carefully considered and scrutinized. Those 11 million visitors by the way generated $9.01 billion in revenue for Broward County.
Our visitors are coming from all corners of the world, with an 8 percent increase from outside the United States. Brazil represents a boom market with a 50 percent increase, followed by 10 percent more Canadians and a four percent rise from Europe. These folks traditionally stay longer than domestic travelers, resulting in more spend in all key areas of our local economy. .
At the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau we have no intention of slowing down. We are continuing an aggressive marketing agenda directed at the leisure, meetings, corporate, special interest and niche market areas of business, including multi-cultural, GLBT, cruise, sports and film. Our digital and mobile marketing endeavors are keeping us connected to our customers in their preferred way of communication and making it easier than ever for them to learn more and do more when they visit. Our hospitality industry is also doing its part by keeping our tourism product and offerings attractive and in top shape through ongoing investment.
What’s my next prediction? 12 million visitors wouldn’t be bad and I think we can make it. I also predict that Greater Fort Lauderdale will continue to be talked about as an outstanding tourism destination and that we will make and break more records and receive tributes and accolades, such as the just announced ranking in TripAdvisor’s 2012 Travelers’ Choice Top 10 Beach Destinations in the United States.