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Tourist Data Introduction

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Key West’s Economy

Historically, the economy of the City has been driven by the following major industries:  

Period     Significant Industry  
1830's - 1930's  US Navy, Fishing, Shipwreck Salvage, Sponging, Cigar Fabrication  
1930's Current  US Navy, Tourism and Development

Tourism is the City's primary generator of local economic activity. In 1996, the City received an estimated 1.3 million annual visitors, including 274,000 airport deplanements; 427,000 cruise ship passengers; and 637,000 automobile passengers. Approximately 66 percent of the economic base (employment) in the city is directly or indirectly tied to tourism.

About two of every three jobs in Key West in 1990 were in either the retail trade or service sectors. Almost half of all retail trade positions were in eating and drinking establishments, and the professional and related category accounted for half of all service positions. The economic base of the City, in comparison to statewide averages, is very high in retail trade and public administration employment and equally low in the manufacturing and wholesales trade sectors.

The median household income in the community in 1990 was $28,121. This was slightly higher than the state average of $27,483. About 10 percent of Key West residents had incomes below the poverty line.

Government is significant, employing more than 17% of the work force. Key West is the county seat for Monroe County, which extends from Key West to the mainland and encompasses much of the Everglades National Park. Approximately one third of those employed in government are at the Federal Level. Approximately one fifth are at the State level and one half are at the County and Local level.

The graph that follows depicts the composition of the Key West workforce based on the most recent available data. It includes the percentage of employment by major category.  

Tourist Data Pie Chart

City of Key West Employment Composition

Counting Tourists

Given the importance of tourists to the City’s economy, monitoring their numbers becomes an important activity for the private as well as the public sector. Business income and tax income is influenced by tourist activity. An informal group consisting of representatives of the Key West Chamber of Commerce, The Tourist Development Council and The City Finance Department meet to share available data. The pages that follow contain that data. If you have any additions or comments, please reply at

Another indication of tourist volume is the number of visitors to Fort Zachary Taylor. It is a pre civil war coastal defense fort with a beach and has been converted into a State park. It is a popular local resident and tourist attraction. Thus, visitor counts are a partial indicator of tourist volume.

The graph below depicts visitor counts to Fort Taylor by month and includes an historic volume trend line. It shows a gradual increase in volume with significant negative spikes caused by Hurricane Georges in October 1998. 


Tourist Data Graph

Fort Taylor Visitors by Month with Trend
Tourism has proven to be a significant source of revenue for the economy and City government.
Click HERE to view the full data workbook compiled by the COC, TDC and City Finance Department.

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The City Government of Key West, FL
2000 - 2001