ORLANDO, Fla. -- Despite Hurricane Irma forcing theme parks and airports to close, a record number of people visited Central Florida last year -- making Orlando again the most visited destination in the U.S.

The Orlando area saw 72 million tourists in 2017, a 5 percent increase from 2016, according to tourism officials. Most were domestic travelers. Visitor numbers from international locations remained soft.

The tourism industry in many parts of the state was shut down in September 2017 because of Hurricane Irma. Theme parks closed for two days, and Orlando International Airport closed. After that, Visit Orlando launched a promotional campaign to get people coming back.

Last year, Orlando International Airport became Florida's busiest airport, surpassing Miami. It also ranked No. 11 in the nation.

The Orlando-area theme parks are also on an expansion spree. Last year, Pandora-The World of Avatar opened at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Volcano Bay opened at Universal Orlando. Next month, Toy Story Land opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Universal Orlando just held the grand opening of its Fast & Furious - Supercharged ride. Next year, a Star Wars land will open at Disney World, and SeaWorld Orlando will debut a Sesame Street land.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly said Orlando International Airport became the country's busiest airport last year. It became the state's busiest airport. It has been corrected in this story.

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