Report: St. Johns County seeing increase in international visitors

Jacksonville, FL — “It's supposed to be the oldest city in the U.S. That’s what all the literature says so we wanted to see it,” Kathy Gysbers said.

New research for the St. Johns County’s Tourist Development Council shows families are coming from all over the U.S. to see the Ancient City.

And from July to September, 13 percent of visitors were international -- a big takeaway for the council.

“That’s exciting because it wasn’t so many years ago where that figure was closer to 2 percent,” Richard Goldman with the visitor’s bureau said. “The international visitor tends to stay longer and because they are staying longer, they spend more money and of course that’s our job is to drive economic development.”

Families said the number one reason they visited was a special event, followed by the beach and historical sites.

“The fort. We’re from Puerto Rico so we wanted to see the difference,” Dalisha Melendez said.

The average income of visitors is also growing. It was $93,000 for day and overnight visitors in the quarterly report, up from $70,000 several years ago, Goldman said.

The research shows the average group spent $484 a day while on vacation, and a total $2,759 on the trip.

The one concern families shared -- parking. One in three visitors said more public parking would make St. Johns County a better place to visit.

Goldman said the city is offering incentives to developers to add new spots so visitors like the Gysbers can focus on enjoying the city.

“We’ll go drink from the fountain of youth before we go home, go home younger than we were,” Gysbers said.

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