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Florida sets tourism record

Ariel view of the beaches at Peanut Island, one of the big tourism spots in Palm Beach County. [Photo by Sky View Photography]

Florida announced record tourism numbers for the first quarter of 2024 as totals for international visitors continue to move toward pre-pandemic levels.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office said May 16 an estimated 40.6 million people traveled to Florida during the first three months of the year, a 1.2% increase from the same period in 2023. The state also issued revisions that increased totals for all of 2023.

The 2024 first-quarter numbers were dominated by an estimated 37.187 million people traveling to Florida from other states, the most ever for a single quarter. An estimated 2.13 million overseas travelers and 1.284 million Canadian visitors also traveled to the state.

The numbers came after DeSantis and the Visit Florida tourism-marketing agency this month touted the state as the top domestic destination for U.S. travelers and second for international visitors.

The count of overseas travelers in the first quarter was up from just under 1.8 million during the same period in 2023 but still below the 2019 total of 2.276 million. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the state in early 2020, causing major disruptions in the tourism industry.

The estimated total of Canadian visitors during the first quarter was up 6.9% from the same period in 2023 but remained below the 1.446 million Canadians during the first quarter of 2019.

During an April 30 appearance in Collier County, Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young said 2 million Floridians work in the hospitality industry, accounting for about one of every six jobs. She added that annual and quarterly tourism numbers don’t include Floridians visiting other parts of the state.

“The numbers are huge. Summer is a very prime travel season for international visitors, primarily from Latin American and Europe,” Young said.

The May 16 announcement said airport passenger boardings were up 9.4% in the first quarter of 2024 compared with 2023, with Orlando International Airport accounting for 7.6 million of the 30.2 million passengers. Miami International Airport was next at 7.5 million.

Only Orlando Sanford International Airport and Daytona Beach International Airport posted decreased passenger boardings, according to the governor’s office.

Visit Florida also revised overall 2023 totals from 135.108 million tourists to 140.624 million, ahead of the 137.409 million visitors in 2022.

After the state drew a record 131.069 million visitors in 2019, the pandemic dropped the totals to 79.397 million in 2020 and 121.838 million in 2021.

The state budget that lawmakers passed in March for the 2024-25 fiscal year includes $80 million for Visit Florida, the same amount as in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The Legislature has not sent the budget to DeSantis for his signature and vetoes.


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