Florida's tourism business is booming, an impressive rebound given that the state's image in the summer of 2010 was one of tarnished, tar-balled Gulf Coast beaches that had been rendered a no-go zone by many travelers.
The BP Deepwater Horizon spill occurred on April 20, 2010, off the Louisiana coast, spewing an estimated 53,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was capped on July 15 and permanently sealed on Sept. 19.
The spill effectively shut down tourism in many coastal communities that summer, and up and down both coasts, its effects lingered long after that.
Fast forward to summer 2013.
The tourists are back, beaches are crowded, restaurants have waiting lines and hotel occupancies statewide averaged 68.3%, up almost 3 percentage points in just a year and more than 5 points since 2010.
More tourists visited the Sunshine State from April through June than had ever visited before during the same three-month stretch, according to preliminary estimates released by Visit Florida, the state's official tourism marketing corporation.
Visitor numbers totaled 23.4 million in Q2, an increase of 2.6% over the same period in 2012.
The numbers include 19.7 million domestic visitors, a 1.6% jump over the same time frame in 2012; 2.7 million overseas visitors, up 9.3%; and 1 million Canadian arrivals, up 4.9% over Q2 2012.
"These numbers demonstrate that tourism is working," said Gov. Rick Scott. "Florida's tourism industry is critical to our families, as it serves as a vital source of revenue to the state and a key driver of employment."
The governor added: "The second-quarter numbers, combined with a record first quarter of 26.5 million visitors, indicate that Florida is 4.2% up over the first half of 2012 and is on pace to generate an unprecedented number of jobs and economic opportunities."
In addition to posting record tourist numbers, visitor spending from January through May was $33.2 billion, which represented a year-over-year increase of 5.5% from the same period in 2012.
Direct travel-related employment in Florida through the first six months of 2013 rose 2.8%, which the state said had added 30,200 jobs since the same time a year ago.
Each of those figures marked a record, making the first half of 2013 the most successful six-month period in the history of Florida's tourism industry, Scott said.
Tammy Gustafson, chair of the Visit Florida board of directors, put it another way: "We're up nearly 2 million visitors, who increased their spending by more than $1.7 billion."
Gustafson said, "This continued momentum is a testament to the strength of Visit Florida's marketing efforts, the power of the Sunshine State brand and the dedication of the 1.1 million Floridians who work in the state's tourism industry."
Will Seccombe, president and CEO of Visit Florida, said that following up two consecutive record years with back-to-back record quarters so far in 2013 "proves we are well positioned to make Florida the No. 1 travel destination in the world."
The state welcomed 91.4 million visitors in 2012. Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.