Tourist visits in Florida plunge by 32% but show improvement from spring
The state’s tourism industry saw a nearly 32% drop in visitors during the third quarter compared with the same period last year, according to numbers released Thursday by Visit Florida.
The estimate of 22.112 million travelers from the start of July to the end of September is significantly below what the state needs from the vital revenue-generating industry, which helps fund the state budget and produces up to 1.5 million jobs.
The third-quarter figure was a noticeable upgrade from the 60.5% drop in tourism experienced in April, May and June as businesses closed or scaled back to try to slow the spread of the virus. More than 900,000 Florida residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic started.
Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young called the third-quarter numbers encouraging.
“Although out-of-state visitation was down again in the third quarter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraged to see some signs of recovery in our visitation estimates, particularly with international travel almost nonexistent,” Young said in a prepared statement. “While we still have a long way to go, Visit Florida will continue our efforts to expedite tourism’s recovery from the pandemic so Floridians can get back to work.”
The economic impact of the pandemic could stretch across years, even if vaccines start to become available in the coming months. Hotels continue to announce cutbacks, and the cruise industry is expecting a slow return to the seas next year.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis fully reopened the state at the end of September, the third quarter got under way with restaurants operating at a maximum of 50% indoor occupancy. Movie theaters, tattoo shops and major theme parks also had recently been given the go-ahead to reopen in most of the state.
The third-quarter figures primarily reflect people coming to Florida from other parts of the country, according to Visit Florida.
In-state travel numbers aren’t reflected in the tourism figures. And visitor numbers from Canada and overseas are well off the 2019 marks.
In 2019, Florida recorded 32.412 million visitors in the third quarter and 100.61 million for the first nine months of the year. So far this year, the state’s overall tourism numbers are down 34%.