With Gov. Rick Scott in Jacksonville announcing record-setting tourism numbers and attributing them to VISIT FLORIDA, it was only natural that Paul Astleford, who heads up Visit Jacksonville, would have his say on the “big numbers.”

With Visit Jacksonville under scrutiny for travel expenses, and with its contract due for renewal in a year, Astleford took advantage of the big stage and the media coverage to make his energetic case for Duval County tourism.

Astleford said “2016 has been a tremendous year for tourism in the entire Jacksonville area.”

“Tourism (and many people don’t know this) is a huge and growing economic development engine not only in the state of Florida, but here in Duval County. It produces $3.2 billion in visitor-generated spending,” Astleford said.

Those dollars “contribute significantly to the prosperity and the quality of life for all who live in Jacksonville,” he added.

Mirroring the governor’s invocation of the 1.3 million Florida jobs sustained by tourism, Astleford noted that 50,000 jobs in Duval County could be attributed to the industry.

These jobs affect “every sector of the local economy,” Astleford continued, “and these numbers continue to grow.”

In 2015, Jacksonville had 20.4 million total visitors; 9.7 million were overnight visitors.

“The numbers in 2016 literally continue to grow,” Astleford added, “over that record-setting year.”

October, said Astleford, was the 36th consecutive month of revenue growth per hotel room.

“Every area of our county has seen record numbers this year,” Astleford said, singling out the beaches for upticks in both “record occupancy” and rates.

Jacksonville, Astleford added, is outpacing the averages “of the entire nation” in terms of “occupancy growth percentages.”

“And for the rest of the state of Florida,” Astleford added, “we’re beating those figures as well.”

“We may still be considered an emerging visitor destination,” Astleford continued, “but our city is a

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