Today, at a special gathering of tourism and community leaders, we announced a historic milestone: Orlando has become the first U.S. destination to surpass 70 million annual visitors. In 2017, a record 72 million visitors traveled to Orlando — an increase of more than 5 percent over the prior year — once again making us America's most-visited destination.

Our record-breaking year was achieved despite international headwinds and the statewide effects of Hurricane Irma. In 2017, our destination launched new consumer experiences on a significant scale, and our marketing efforts leveraged increasing consumer confidence in the United States. We also continued our focus on communicating the unique emotional connections visitors have with Orlando.

Domestically, Visit Orlando recognized the potential of the country's growing positive economic indicators and increased marketing initiatives focused on U.S. audiences, with a special emphasis in the important Northeast region. Domestic visitation in 2017 grew to an all-time high of 65.86 million.

Internationally, with several key markets facing uncertainties, Visit Orlando maintained its extensive marketing, brand and publicity programs to retain Orlando's leading position as a top international destination, with 6.15 million visitors.

Looking ahead, with so many new developments throughout our destination, the region's No. 1 industry is poised to grow even stronger — this year and well into the future. That, of course, is great news for everyone in Central Florida, where tourism supports 1 in 3 jobs and generates nearly $70 billion in annual economic impact.

Indeed, the strength of our economy reflects the strength of tourism. And Visit Orlando is proud to help grow both areas, to the benefit of our entire community.

Here's to making 2018 another banner year for Orlando!

—George Aguel