State figures point to tourism rebound in 2013

1:12 AM, Dec 28, 2013   |    comments
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CLEARWATER BEACH, Florida -- From the beaches and businesses on Clearwater Beach, to the roller coasters of Busch Gardens, across Florida tourism business is booming again for the first time in a long time.

"It's been phenomenal. We've had a great year," said vendor Jean Hagan who manages the daily festival along Pier 60.

Many visitors are in town for this week's Outback Bowl and local vendors are excited.

"It brings a lot of tourists and a lot of people from outside the state," said Hagan.

Others like Sam Kephart from Spearfish, South Dakota are just here to enjoy Florida's warm weather.

"Our spending is definitely up. I would say our purse is looser," said Kephart who is visiting Florida with his wife and daughters.

Full hotels and extra spending translates into more tax dollars to help support the state of Florida. In fact, newly released data shows tourism development tax dollars are way up in Hillsborough County from $17.5 million in 2010 to $21.2 million over the last fiscal year. This year even surpassed 2012 when Tampa Bay hosted the Republican National Convention.

"In talking to some of your shop keepers and restaurant proprietors here I would say all of them feel they are having a really strong December," said Kephart.

On Clearwater Beach they'll be hosting Outback Bowl Day on Monday with thousands more visitors flocking down from Iowa and LSU. Local officials are calling 2013 a great year for tourism with hopes 2014 will be even better.

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Beau Zimmer, 10 News

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