Florida tourism continues to bounce back

TALLAHASSEE – Tourism in Florida in the first half of 2022 was up 20 percent from the same period last year and was higher than the first six months of 2019, the last year of travel before the coronavirus pandemic.

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, posted numbers online late Monday showing that Florida had 33.717 million visitors from April 1 to June 30, bringing the total for the first six months of this year to 69.34 million.

The second quarter number was up 5.6 percent from the same period in 2021. Tourism in the first quarter was 38.3 percent higher than in the first quarter of 2021.

93 percent of people visiting Florida in the second quarter and nearly 94 percent in the first six months were from within the United States.

35.628 million visitors in the first quarter of this year is an all-time three-month record.

The dip in tourists in the second quarter was no surprise.

Covering most of winter, the first quarter has historically been the state’s busiest tourism period. Also, with gas prices above $4 a gallon and inflation at a four-decade high, tourism officials in June expressed concern that hotel room rates, which were inflated by demand during the past year, were hampering travel.

“I think we’re starting to see, in the last couple of weeks or so in particular, inflation is really starting to catch up with us in a lot of markets,” said Jacob Pewitt Yancey, Visit Florida director of consumer insights and analysis. Go to Florida Board Meeting June 9th.

“Now, overall room revenue is still up in every market statewide, because the increase in rates has been more than enough to overcome the low level of demand,” Pewitt Yancey said.

However, STR, Inc., which provides data to the hotel industry, indicated in an Aug. 5 blog post that numbers were flat nationally in the third quarter.

“Although not as high as initially expected, summer demand … has remained strong, ranking as the fourth highest since 2000 behind 2019, 2018 and 2017,” STR said in a post. “So far summer occupancy is 69.5 percent, compared to 74 percent in 2019. A year ago, it was 68 percent during this period.”

Last year, while the state was still recovering from the early economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, 31.935 million tourists visited Florida in the second quarter and 57.703 million visited in the first half of the year.

A pandemic broke out in Florida in March 2020, largely shutting down the tourism industry. That year, Florida drew 9.7 million tourists from the beginning of April to the end of June and 39.764 million in the first half of the year alone.

In 2019, when Florida hit a record 131.07 million tourists, it drew 32.265 million visitors in the second quarter and 67.76 million visitors in the first half.

Florida has outpaced other states in bringing back international travelers during the pandemic, but it still lags behind the 2019 total.

The state had 3.071 million foreign travelers in the first half of 2022, 1.748 million in the second quarter. In 2021, Florida collected 1.5 million foreign travelers in the first half of the year.

An estimated 1.207 million Canadians visited Florida in the first half of 2022, with 594,000 in the second quarter. Only 96,000 Canadians arrived in Florida in the first half of 2021. In the first half of 2019, 2.294 million Canadians came to Florida.

Florida drew a total of 4.63 million international travelers in 2021, a nearly 45 percent market share of foreign travelers to the United States that easily topped 22 percent for the next-highest state, New York.

In 2019, Florida had just 13.9 million international tourists.

The Biden administration in June removed the requirement that international travelers test negative for COVID-19 within a day of boarding a flight to the United States. The ban was one of the last remaining government mandates designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

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