For years, a visit to Jacksonville basically meant driving through town on Interstate 95. Now, visitors are stopping for days at a time, filling up hotels, dining, shopping, taking in entertainment and most of all, enjoying the beaches, which have become the hook. Tourism is gaining ground, and the numbers show it.
Paul Astleford, president of Visit Jacksonville, admits Jacksonville will likely never have the draw of Orlando with its theme parks or Miami with its international flair. But since he took over the tourism bureau more than three years ago, the number of tourists visiting Jacksonville has been on the rise, and the tourism growth for the city now rivals other cities in the Southeastern United States.