Visitor numbers continue to increase in Florida, but at slower pace

More visitors keep coming to Florida, but year-over-year growth has slowed.

Preliminary estimates released Thursday by Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, show that 22.1 million people visited Florida between April and June. That’s an increase of 1.3 percent over the same time in 2011. Last year, visitor numbers increased by nearly 7 percent in the second quarter.

The number of travel-related jobs increased by 11,300, or 1.1 percent, to 1,041,900. Visitor Florida said tourism and recreation taxable sales increased 8.8 percent to $31.5 billion from January through May, the last month for which information is available.

Of the 22.1 million people who came to the state, approximately 18.8 million were domestic visitors, a tiny increase from last year, and 2.4 million were from overseas, a 10 percent jump from the same time in 2011.

Statewide, hotel occupancy ticked up 2 percentage points and average room rates increased 3.6 percent.

Those trends are mirrored in South Florida. For the first six months of the year, occupancy increased 1.8 percent in Miami-Dade, 2.4 percent in Broward and 2.8 percent in the Florida Keys compared to the first half of 2011. All three destinations had larger year-over-year increases in hotel occupancy in the first half of 2011 compared to the previous year.

Average hotel rates in Miami-Dade and the Keys showed much stronger growth than the state, jumping 7.6 percent for the first half of 2012, while Broward rates rose 3.9 percent.