Nearly 95 million people visited Florida last year, setting records for Sunshine State tourism.

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing corporation, reported 94.7 million visitors came to Florida in 2013, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2012. This represents a record year for visitation to Florida, exceeding the previous high of 91.5 million in 2012.

Governor Rick Scott made the tourism announcement at the Universal Orlando Resort where they are undertaking an expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley, adding a new on-site hotel and expanding their CityWalk Entertainment complex. The company has said it will be creating nearly 3,500 new jobs with the expansion.

He used the annoucement to tout putting more money in the tourism budget.

“Every 85 visitors to Florida equals one job in our state — and it is clear that more visitors to the Sunshine State means more jobs for Florida families,” Scott said. “That is why my ‘It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget,’ commits $100 million to VISIT FLORIDA so we can grow more job opportunities for Florida families.”

The tourism agency said there were record-setting numbers of foreign tourists. The agency estimates that 11.5 million visitors came from overseas and 3.7 million Canadians came to Florida in 2013, representing 11.1 percent and 4.1 percent increases over 2012 respectively. Estimates reflect a 2.5 percent increase in domestic visitors to Florida in 2013.

Tourism and recreation taxable sales for Florida increased every month year-over-year from January through November 2013, the last reported month, representing a 5.9 percent increase over the same period in 2012. Preliminary data from Smith Travel Research indicates Florida tourism has been steadily regaining market share since January 2013, outpacing the rest of the U.S. by 1.3 percentage points. According to the same study, room revenue in Florida for 2013 was up 8.2 percent compared to 2012, while the U.S. is only up 6.2 percent.

“We are incredibly encouraged to see domestic, Canadian and overseas visitor numbers all peaking together in 2013, and look forward to continuing to build on this momentum in 2014 to make Florida the No. 1 travel destination in the world,” said Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA.

Preliminary estimates show a record 21.9 million people visited the Sunshine State in the fourth quarter of 2013. This represents the largest fourth quarter visitation number Florida has ever seen and reflects an increase of 2.2 percent over the same period in 2012. The tourism agency also reported an estimated 3.2 million overseas visitors traveled to Florida in the fourth quarter of 2013, an increase of 12.1 percent, and 724,000 Canadians traveled to Florida, reflecting an increase of 4.2 percent over the same period in 2012. ___

Photo Credit: Visit Florida argues that tourism increases means more jobs in Flordia. Pictured is a jobs promo for Cabana Bay Beach Resort in Orlando. Universal Orlando Resort