News Service of Florida
Florida is on pace for record-setting tourism numbers this year
With international travel clawing closer to pre-pandemic levels, Florida is on pace for a record-setting year for tourism.
The tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida on Thursday estimated 35.066 million people traveled to Florida during the third quarter of 2023, 1.4 percent more than during the same period of 2022 and 7.9 percent above the total in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The new numbers showed a rebound from a slight second-quarter dip, which industry leaders attributed to increased competition from other states and countries that were closed longer than Florida because of the pandemic.
Visit Florida said Florida had 105.2 million visitors during the first nine months of the year, up from 104.478 million during the same period in 2022. Florida posted a full-year record of 137.4 million tourists in 2022.
In 2019, Florida attracted 131 million visitors, with 100.267 million coming to the state during the first nine months of the year.
Florida’s July-through-September totals this year were dominated by visitors from other states. But they were also helped by the federal government’s lifting of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for international air travelers on May 11, the same day a COVID-19 public health emergency ended.
International tourism, however, continues to face issues with non-migrant visa delays, which have been blamed, at least in part, on staffing shortages at embassies. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website Thursday showed London wait times at 110 days, up from 90 days on June 7. Paris was at 200 days, up from 180 days in June. Rio De Janeiro was at 162 days on Thursday, down from 477 days in June.
Florida’s tourism industry was hammered in 2020 because of pandemic-related shutdowns. But state officials have contended that early efforts to reopen the economy led to a quicker tourism rebound in Florida.
“Florida continues to set records for visitation because of our commitment to allowing visitors to enjoy their travels without arbitrary government restrictions,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a prepared statement Thursday.