TALLAHASSEE — Tourism in Florida during the first half of 2022 was up 20 percent from the same period last year and was higher than during the first six months of 2019, the last full year of travel before the coronavirus pandemic.
Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, posted numbers online late Monday that estimated Florida had 33.717 million visitors from April 1 through 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 above the first quarter of 2021.
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Tourists within the U.S. account for most of Florida’s visitors
Travel from within the United States accounted for 93 percent of the people visiting Florida during the second quarter and nearly 94 percent of people visiting in the first six months.
The 35.628 million visitors during this year’s first quarter was an all-time three-month record.
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The Sunshine State's long and storied reputation as a tourism mecca
Covering most of the winter, the first quarter historically has been the state’s busiest tourism period. Also, with gas prices over $4 a gallon and inflation at a four-decade high, tourism officials in June expressed concern that hotel room rates, which had been pushed up by demand during the past year, were starting to hinder travel.
“I think we're starting to see, just over the last couple of weeks or so especially, inflation actually starting to catch up with us in most markets,” Jacob Pewitt Yancey, Visit Florida director of consumer insight and analytics, said during a Visit Florida board meeting June 9.
“Now, overall room revenue is still up in every market statewide, because the growth in rates has been more than enough to overcome the decreased 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 nationally have been holding steady into the third quarter.
“While not as high as initially expected, summer demand … has been strong, ranking as the fourth highest ever since 2000 behind 2019, 2018 and 2017 in that order,” STR said in the post. “Summer occupancy thus far is 69.5 percent, as compared with 74 percent in 2019. A year ago, occupancy for the period was 68 percent.”
Last year, as the state was still emerging 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 during the first half of the year.
The pandemic slammed into Florida in March 2020, largely shutting down the tourism industry. That year, Florida drew just 9.7 million tourists from the start of April to the end of June and 39.764 million in the first half of the year.
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 in the first half.
Florida leads nation in international visitors
Florida has outpaced other states in bringing back international travelers during the pandemic, but it still lags 2019 totals.
The state had 3.071 million overseas travelers during the first half of 2022, with 1.748 million in the second quarter. In 2021, Florida totaled 1.5 million overseas travelers during the first half of the year.
An estimated 1.207 million Canadians visited Florida during the first half of 2022, with 594,000 in the second quarter. Only 96,000 Canadians made their way to Florida in the first half of 2021. For 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 roughly 45 percent market share of foreign travelers into the U.S. That easily topped the 22 percent for the next-highest state, New York.
Florida in 2019 had just under 13.9 million international tourists.
The Biden administration in June lifted a requirement that international travelers test negative for COVID-19 within a day of boarding flights to the United States. The ban was one of the last remaining government mandates designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Record quarter for tourism highlights Florida’s recovery from COVID pandemic