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‘Freedom First’ Approach Sees Florida Tourism Grow Beyond Pre-Pandemic Levels

February 22, 2022 by Kate Michael
(Photo by Denys Kostyuchenko via UnSplash)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida tourism is rebounding exceptionally well and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels according to a recent announcement from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Sunshine State welcomed 30.9 million visitors between October and December 2021, and nearly a full 118 million domestic visitors during the whole of last year, which is the highest level in state history.

DeSantis suggested the swell was the result of residents from other states taking refuge in Florida from stringent lockdown policies. The state’s tourism entity, VISIT FLORIDA, also launched a specific tourism recovery plan in August of 2020, which helped draw visitors back to the state.

“In Florida, we put freedom first, and as a result people are choosing to vacation in our state from across the country and the world to escape lockdowns, including the politicians who advocated for those reckless policies and who are often spotted vacationing here,” DeSantis said in a release.

“While tourism in other states is only just beginning to recover, Florida is at the front of the pack — now we are surpassing pre-pandemic levels and setting new visitation records. I’m thankful that VISIT FLORIDA continued to market our state throughout the past two years, and I am confident that 2022 will be another great year for Florida’s tourism industry.”

VISIT FLORIDA’s efforts have focused specifically on showcasing how Florida’s variety of year-round vacation options, including national parks, preserves, monuments, beaches and forests can be freely enjoyed by all types of travelers. With its tagline “Adventure Awaits,” VISIT FLORIDA’s site also entices safe domestic and international tourism, telling guests, “Whatever you’re imagining, you can make it real here. Explore the wide-open beauty of Florida.”

The confluence of Florida’s more relaxed COVID policies and elevated tourism promotion may have given Florida a competitive edge as a destination for travelers. It certainly generated revenue for Florida communities during a time when other destinations foundered. The state’s total hotel revenue, for example, reached its highest ever in 2021, a full 2% over 2019, at $17.3 billion.

Those rooms were filled with a surge of domestic travelers, but also a record number of international guests, especially from Canada and Latin America. In 2021, Florida saw 359,000 Canadian visitors between October and December alone, nearly three times as many as in the previous quarter. And Colombia was truly a driving force for the industry, with a record 710,000 visitors in 2021, making it the state’s new top international market.

“As Florida’s No. 1 industry, Gov. DeSantis has prioritized tourism as the foundation of the state’s economic recovery. Florida being open and able to welcome visitors enabled VISIT FLORIDA to capitalize on the pent-up demand in travel and establish Florida as a leader in the U.S. tourism sector,” Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA president and CEO told The Well News.

“Since August 2020, VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing campaigns have yielded steady quarterly visitation growth and continue to showcase Florida’s wealth of vacation experiences to travelers all over the world.

“We are thrilled to cap off an incredible year with more record-breaking success for Florida’s tourism industry.”

Kate can be reached at kate@thwellnews.com

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