Covid-19 Stops Decades of Upticks in Florida’s Tourism Numbers
Covid-19 ended a decade of record-setting tourism numbers in Florida, with the industry seeing a 34% drop in visitors in 2020 compared to the prior year.
The state tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida posted preliminary figures from the fourth quarter and for the full year late Monday, showing 86.714 million visitors to the state during 2020. That was the lowest annual total since 2010.
Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young said an estimated 20.625 million travelers in the fourth quarter “exceeded our expectations.” Still, the visitor count for the year might be reduced as figures are refined.
Specifically, Visit Florida believes an estimated 3.236 million overseas visitors calculated by the state Revenue Estimating Conference for 2020 is about 400,000 too high.
The state attracted a record 131.42 million tourists in 2019, the culmination of year-to-year growth since 2009 when Florida had 80.879 million visitors. The hospitality and leisure industries handled 82.315 million visitors in 2010 and 87.307 million in 2011. Since 2015, the state had drawn more than 100 million visitors a year.
The new estimates were released Monday as the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee advanced a proposal (SB 778) that would eliminate a potential Oct. 1, 2023, repeal date for Visit Florida and permit the agency to carry forward unused money from budget year to budget year.
Before the pandemic, the state estimated 1.6 million jobs were supported by tourism. Last week, the U.S. Travel Association reported four in 10 jobs lost nationally over the past year were in the leisure and hospitality industries.
According to the Visit Florida numbers, the state drew an estimated 20.62 million visitors in the fourth quarter of 2020, down 33.1% from the prior year. The pandemic had cut tourism by 60.3% in the second quarter of 2020 and 32.7% in the third quarter.
The 82.19 million travelers from other parts of the nation for 2020 was a 29.7% reduction from 2019. The 1.286 million Canadian visitors in 2020 represented a 64.5% year-to-year drop.
Source: Orlando Business Journal