Visit Florida has released its annual report with visitation figures for 2017 and they show what some U.S. receptive tour operators have suspected for a while. In sum, the data show:
—Florida saw a record number of tourists last year, but fewer visitors came from overseas, continuing a downward swing that began in 2014. Last year Florida welcomed nearly 116.5 million visitors, up 3.6 percent from the previous year. More than 102.3 million of those visitors — or about 88 percent — came from within the United States.
—The number of annual overseas visitors to the state fell 4.3 percent over the year to less than 10.7 million in 2017, down from nearly 11.2 million in 2016. The 10.7 million overseas visitors is the lowest annual total since 2012.
—America’s share of the international travel market has been shrinking since 2015 — before the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. From 2015 to 2017, it dropped from 13.6 percent to 11.9 percent, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
While it isn’t possible to tie Florida’s negative overseas numbers or a readily identifiable variable, most tour and travel industry experts in the state believe it has something to do with fights over state appropriations for the Visit Florida budget in the Florida state legislature. It has been difficult for the agency to develop a firm marketing calendar when it does not know if it will receive an appropriation until it is almost in the Fiscal Year for which it is supposed to be budgeting. Regardless of cause, the data do not lie: it’s been a soft overseas market for Florida in the past five years.