Florida Guv claims top tourism spot For Florida but figures don’t back

Published on : Friday, November 22, 2013

visitfloridaAgain fudging the numbers has come into play. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is Florida’s salesman-in-chief when it comes to recruiting tourists. His office blasted a press release chock-a-block with statistics about tourism in Florida that made everybody nod off like a lazy tourist on the beach — until they came across this phrase: “As we move toward our third consecutive year of record tourism growth, it is clear why the Sunshine State remains the top travel destination across the world,” stated a press release.

If one goes by various statistics then it seems that Scott is clearly a cheerleader for his own state, but the data to back up his claim is murky and difficult to substantiate. We rate the claim Mostly False. John Tupps, a spokesman for the Governor, said Scott was simply expressing a personal opinion that Florida is the best place to visit in the whole world, not making a quantitative statement. “The governor truly believes Florida is the ‘top travel destination’ in the world,” Tupps said in an email. “It’s his personal view.”

However, Scott’s wording went further than a personal opinion, though. We soon found that comparing tourism stats is tricky, because various states and countries use different methodologies to count visitors.

Visit Florida, a quasi-state agency, counts out-of-state, overnight visitors. By that measurement, Florida had 91.5 million visitors in 2012. In California in 2012, there were 61 million out-of-state overnight trips. New York had about 62 million overnight out-of-state visitors in 2011, the most recent year available. So in state-to-state competition, Florida wins on the metric that Visit Florida uses.

But the picture changes when we look around the world.

According to the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization, in 2012, there were 83 million international visitors to France, compared with the United States in second place with 67 million. So on the metric of international visitors, France is clearly leading Florida.
“We continue to say our goal is to beat France,” said Kathy Torian, a spokeswoman for Visit Florida.

Still, the comparison of Florida with France is tricky, because France is a country and Florida is a state. Florida’s 19 million population is about one-third the size of France’s population of about 66 million.

And while France is No. 1 in the number of international visitors, it tumbles behind the United States and Spain when you consider spending, the AP reported:

“International visitors spent more than double in the U.S. than they did in France in 2012 – $126.2 billion, compared to $53.7 billion, according to the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization despite the fact that France welcomed 20 per cent more tourists.”

The U.S. Travel Association reports that travel spending was $71.5 billion in Florida in 2011. That amount lags behind California, at $105 billion in 2011. Both those numbers top France’s $53.7 billion in 2012. But to Scott’s point, those spending numbers still don’t put Florida in the No. 1 position.

While touting Florida’s tourism numbers, Scott said, “The Sunshine State remains the top travel destination across the world.”

There isn’t one simple way to declare “the” top travel destination in the world. But Scott’s claim would probably elicit a “mais non!” from Scott’s counterparts in France, who can boast to being the undisputed global leader of international tourists.

And if you don’t consider France a fair comparison, recent data on travel spending shows that California edges out Florida.

Visit Florida is clamoring to achieve that No. 1 ranking, but we didn’t find proof that we are already there.

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