Florida saw record-breaking numbers of tourists visit the state in the first nine months of 2016, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday. Visitors streamed into the state despite the prevalence of the Zika virus.
"Today's announcement shows that the Florida tourism industry has done a tremendous job marketing the state both domestically and internationally during very challenging times," said Will Seccombe, president and CEO of the tourism bureau Visit Florida. "It also shows that we will have to work even harder as a state and an industry to maintain that growth going forward."
Eighty-five million tourists visited Florida during the first nine months of the year, a 5.5 percent increase over the same months in 2015. A record-breaking number of employees worked in the state's tourism industry as well, with a total of 1.2 million employed over the first nine months, a 4.1 percent increase over the previous year.
Florida continues to struggle with Zika despite what the numbers suggest. The state has far and away the most cases of the virus in the continental U.S. and is home to the only locally transmitted cases in the continental U.S.
Florida had 708 travel associated cases and 139 locally associated cases as of Nov. 16, 2016. The continental U.S. as a whole had 4,255 cases of Zika.
The U.S. repeatedly updates its travel recommendations for visitors to Florida as more cases of the virus appear. On Oct. 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amended travel warnings to include all of Miami-Dade County. Officials in the Florida Keys recently approved a trial to release genetically modified mosquitos to combat the virus.
The World Health Organization announced Friday that Zika is no longer categorized as an international public health emergency thanks to a rapid response from multiple nations. However, the WHO noted that the virus still poses a serious threat.