Florida tourism sets new record in first quarter

The year is off to a record start for Florida’s tourism industry.

The first quarter of 2013 was the state’s best ever for tourism, according to preliminary numbers released Wednesday by Visit Florida.

Between January and March, 26 million people visited Florida. That’s a 4.7 percent increase over the same time in 2012.

Of those tourists, 21.8 million were domestic, 1.5 million visited from Canada and 2.7 million were overseas visitors. Guests spent more on hotels, too: The average daily rate increased 6.8 percent compared to a year ago to $136.45 statewide.

Travel-related employment also hit a record, growing 3.4 percent to nearly 1.09 million jobs.

The state’s official tourism marketing corporation also revised its earlier estimate of 2012 numbers. The total count of visitors last year was actually 91.4 million, not 89.3 million as initially reported.