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Florida tourism strong despite hurricanes

From the Associated Press:

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Valerie Stryker's second-grade daughter was nervous. A few weeks earlier, the family watched Hurricane Charley tear across Florida on television from the safe remove of their New Canaan, Conn., home.

But Stryker, her husband and their three kids had a much closer view of the next deadly storm from their hotel room as Hurricane Frances bore down on Florida and their Walt Disney World vacation in September 2004.

The family spent most of those nervous hours in their hotel with drawn shades and storm reports from Disney staff slipped under their door or by voicemail. When it was finally over, the parks were shuttered for two days, the kids missed the first day of school because of airport closings and the trip home required a maddening three-flight ramble from Tampa to Miami, then on to Boston and finally New York.

But perhaps the biggest surprise? The Strykers - and apparently millions like them - are still coming back, with no plans to let further predictions of heavy Atlantic storm seasons slow them.

Despite the state being hit or affected by eight storms over the past two years, a record 85.8 million people visited Florida last year, generating $57 billion in economic activity and $3.4 billion for government coffers. That's 6 million more visitors than in 2004, a 7.6 percent increase. Visit Florida, a public-private organization that promotes tourism, is predicting a 3.2 percent increase this year.

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