Vero Beach, Florida.(photo by Noreen Kompanik)
Back in December of 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed committing $50 million in recurring funding for Visit Florida, the state’s main tourism marketing arm, as part of the 2022-23 fiscal year budget.
If the early returns are any indication, he might want to think about increasing that.
An estimated 36 million people visited Florida in the first quarter of 2022, according to the tourist agency. While it was expected that figure would easily surpass the same three-month period in 2020 and 2021 – the height of the COVID-19 era – the number of tourists also surpassed 2019’s first quarter.
Broken down by comparison, the first-quarter numbers show a 1.3 percent increase from 2019, 19.3 percent from 2020 when COVID wasn’t declared a pandemic yet until mid-March of that year, and 39.6 percent higher than 2021.
The Sunshine State is still struggling with luring international visitors – 95 percent of the first-quarter tourists were from the U.S. – but that should change in the next quarter as more and more countries around the world have dropped restrictions on travel.
But that’s also why U.S. airline officials are pressing the Biden Administration to drop rules on requiring pre-departure testing for COVID-19 on international passengers coming to America.
The number of international visitors who visited Florida in the first quarter of 2019 was 2.28 million. That dropped to 1.76 million in 2020 and 492,000 from January through March last year. This year, it rose again to 1.32 million.
As far as enplanements went, most visitors who traveled by plane arrived at Orlando International followed by Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Fort Myers.