Record-breaking tourism spending announced

Record-breaking tourism spending announced

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'Tis the season for tourists.

On Tuesday, we learned just how much money Palm Beach County made thanks to last year's visitors.

Discover the Palm Beaches, the official tourism marketing corporation for Palm Beach County, announced an increase in tourism spending for 2016 of nearly one percent to $4.6 billion dollars, up from $4.5 billion in 2015.

"We really attribute that to some of the positivity that we've been doing with our marketing campaigns," said Rich Basen, Senior VP of marketing for Discover the Palm Beaches.

The new numbers come on the heels of recording breaking tourism numbers for 2016, with 7.35 million visitors, up from 6.9 million in 2015. The totals have steadily increased each year since 2011.

Discover the Palm Beaches has pushed marketing more than ever before over the last year. Social media campaigns like the Selfie-Trail and advertisements like "Friends Trust Friends... Not Ads" are proving successful, according to Basen.

"It's about real people using real images to help promote the tourism in this destination," he said.

Hotel stays in Palm Beach County were the highest in the entire state last month, even beating out the tough Orlando market.

"It just really shows that our marketing efforts are paying off," said Basen. "It's a big honor and we hope we continue that in the month of March."

Palm Beach County saw a five percent increase in spending from New York, partly thanks to advertisements like one on the giant jumbotrons in Times Square.

"New York is really one of the life blood markets for us here in the Palm Beaches," said Basen. "We focus our efforts in a number of markets like Atlanta, the Northeast, Chicago and the Midwest, as well as new markets like Houston to really focus on the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches."

But Canadian spending was down twelve percent, due to a bad exchange rate.

"The Canadian economy has been having a few issues over the last year. But from our perspective, the Canadian market is very important to us. It's our number one international market," said Basen.

Don Burns from Ontario, Canada is all too familiar with that.

"If we buy one of your dollars, it costs you .31 or .32 [Canadian] cents," he explained.  "So, if I buy 1,000 Canadian and change it to $1,000 American, it would cost me about $1,500."

But the economic challenges are not keeping him away. He showed us a picture of the three feet of snow that awaits him at home.

"I'll beg, borrow and steal to get down here for the winter!" he joked.

Despite the loss, there are more tourists from other states and across Florida that are visiting the area. Domestic tourism spending is up seven percent.

"It's a little cooler than it is back home, that's for sure," said Julie Vincent, who is visiting Palm Beach with her husband for Spring Break.

Her husband, Darrin, prefers the quieter, family-friendly atmosphere compared to other parts of the state.

"I think it's good for you guys, good for us -- we're happy to come and be a part of it," he said.

Hotel stays went up, with 4 million nights booked last year. That's welcome news for the Hilton West Palm Beach, which helps keep the numbers flowing during the slow summer months.

"The fun thing about 2017 is that a lot of the business that we're getting, is in the summertime here. We've got some great convention business coming in this year that we didn't have last year," said John Parkinson, the Hilton West Palm Beach general manager.

Parkinson said they usually ramp up their marketing campaigns in the summertime to keep the tourism numbers rolling strong.

"The summer shifts to a lot of drive traffic from Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. And they're trying to get away from those areas and do staycations," he said.

The month of March is on track to reach record performance, which was set in 2005 at 89%.

The tourism industry currently accounts for 66,000 jobs in Palm Beach County.

"For approximately 100 visitors to The Palm Beaches, one new job is supported," said Basen. "Having more visitors means the destination has an increased overall economic benefit. It's exciting to see increased visitation and visitor spending as result of our strategic tourism marketing efforts."

Discover the Palm Beaches said they will continue their focus on the Canadian market, working with airlines, tour operators and publications to bring those numbers back up.

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