Report says Florida's tourism recovery is a year away

Overseas visitors to Florida from April to September was 2.65 million in 2019; in 2020, that number fell to 464,000.

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  • | 11:50 a.m. December 10, 2020
Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.
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Effects of the coronavirus pandemic on state tourism decreased in October, but recovery for Florida’s vital revenue-generating industry is still at best a year away, according to an association study released Dec. 7.

The Destinations Florida study indicated that businesses in October were having fewer problems finding supplies than in June. The research for Destinations Florida, an association of local tourism promotion organizations, also found a slight uptick in people planning Florida trips.

But more than half of the state’s tourism-related businesses anticipate that COVID-19 impacts will continue until sometime between the third quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, according to the study.

“Slowly but surely, we are seeing signs of a recovery and Florida’s tourism industry, which is a key driver of employment and our economy, continues to work hard to ensure our communities are able to rebound,” Destinations Florida Executive Director Robert Skrob said in a press release Monday. “There is no magic fix for an economic recovery but what we have seen, and what we know works, is the efforts of local tourism promotion organizations that have been providing critical resources, information and opportunities for local tourism businesses to welcome visitors back in a safe and secure manner.” 

The study, the association’s fourth survey of the state’s travel industry this year, involved 244 tourism-related businesses interviewed between the end of October and early November. The survey was conducted as advancements involving coronavirus vaccines were being announced, but prior to a recent uptick in positive COVID-19 cases and deaths in Florida.

The association’s findings follow recent short- and long-term outlooks from a panel of state economists, who forecast that travelers to Florida, mostly from other states, could approach pre-pandemic numbers in 2022.

The state analysts projected tourism could start to experience an uptick midway through 2021, although foreign travel will continue to lag for several years.

Overseas visitors to Florida totaled 464,000 across the second and third quarters of this year, down from 2.65 million during the same period of 2019, according to Visit Florida, the state's tourism-marketing arm. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week urged Congress to approve more unemployment relief, is asking the federal government to ease coronavirus travel restrictions from Europe and Brazil.

Overall, Visit Florida reported a near 32% drop in visitors during the third quarter, and a 34% reduction so far this year.

Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young said last month that the tourism industry was showing “some signs of recovery,” with the third-quarter number an improvement on a 60.3% drop in tourism in the second quarter of the year.

The Destinations Florida study, conducted by Downs & St. Germain Research between Oct. 27 and Nov. 10, also found:

  • Bookings being made 30 days out were 42% lower on Oct. 27 than a year earlier. On June 9, bookings being made a month in advance were 59% below the 2019 mark.
  • Employment at tourism-related businesses is 72% of pre-COVID-19 hiring levels. 
  • Revenue was down about 40% for tourism businesses so far this year — through Oct. 27 — from the same time span in 2019, with profit off 55%.
  • Half of the businesses contacted received federal Paycheck Protection Program money, while one out of three drew other forms of financial assistance. About 40% claim they would still qualify for a second round of COVID-19 funding.


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