Sunday, October 12, 2008

Florida, USA

Florida Tourism - Birth & Growth
By Paul Sunderland

Map of FloridaDiscovered in 1513 by Spanish Conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon, Florida has fast become one of the world’s favourite tourist destinations pulling in about 60 million visitors to the state every year. Its warm climate, friendly locals and massive variety of activities all contribute to its popular vacation status.

Before the tourists began flooding in Florida was mostly an agricultural state and this continues to be its second largest industry today. As well as a booming cattle farming industry Florida produces the majority of the citrus fruit in the US. Indeed, Florida is famous, even now, not only for its theme parks but for its large quantity of oranges, with orange juice being the state’s official beverage. As well as citrus fruit the state is also well known for producing sugar cane, today its third biggest industry. These days it is surprising to most that, before the arrival of tourism, Florida consisted of mostly cattle fields and swamplands.

Beach at Bahia Honda, Florida Keys by MwannerThe warm climate, sandy beaches and various activities such as fishing and water sports began to bring in the visitors and lay the foundation for what was to become the states greatest industry and main economy source. In the early days of this growth (early to mid 1800s) it was still only the rich and famous who could afford a vacation to Florida. That was until American tycoon Henry S. Flagler visited that state in 1878 and recognised the massive potential Florida could hold to attract visitors from outside the state. He built the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St Augustine in 1885 and then began to construct what is now known as the Florida East Coast Railway making travel into Florida much easier and more convenient for people from as far away as New York. Flagler went on to build more hotels subsequently improving the state’s accommodation and allowing for more visitors. In the early 1900s visitors increased considerably due to this growth in hotels and railways and then in the 1930s airlines opened up travel schedules to Florida and airports were built in the major cities, again allowing for a boost in tourists.

St Petersburg skyline by Jamie BeverlyPeople came to soak in the sun and the laid back Florida attitude bringing about the growth of beach towns up and down the coasts. By now many of Florida's residents had long figured out that tourism had become a fundamental source of bread and butter for them and so they set about earning whatever living they could from it. Even as the beach towns prospered from all the sun seekers people began to pull visitors further inland with various roadside attractions. However it was in 1963-64 when a certain man took a plane journey over the state that the rise of Florida tourism as we know it today really began.

In 1963 Walt Disney was looking for somewhere to build his dream, a bigger and better version of his Disneyland attraction in California. Disneyland didn't fulfil Walt's dream the way he intended, only buying enough land to build the actual park it quickly became surrounded by urban life as Los Angeles grew around it, so this time he knew he needed land and lots of it. At the time central Florida had undeveloped swampland in abundance and when Mr. Disney took that plane flight overhead he knew that was the place.

Everglades National ParkToday Walt Disney World is still considered the greatest theme park on earth and its development was followed by a succession of more world class theme parks such as Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Sea World and Busch Gardens. It is now these attractions that Florida is best known for and between them they gather hundreds of thousands of visitors every day and it was the growth in these attractions that rocketed the once sleepy southern state of Florida into the position of one of the world’s favourite tourist destinations. Despite this, there is still an enormous range of activities offered to the Florida tourist of today including (but certainly not limited to) fishing, golf, water sports, space shuttle launches, wildlife, shopping, dining and world class beaches.

About The Author
Exclusive Florida Homes is a company specialising in vacation homes in Orlando, Florida.

Pictures
Map of Florida
Beach at Bahia Honda, Florida Keys (Mwanner)
St Petersburg skyline (Jamie Beverly)
Everglades National Park

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