Florida’s flourishing tourism sector has fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic — and then some.
Roughly 36 million visitors from around the nation and world touched down in the Sunshine State in the first quarter of this year — 1.3% more than during the same stretch in the last pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to Florida tourism officials.
The number of visitors from January through March was 39.6% higher than the same period last year, with the spike likely due to the increased availability of vaccines during that time.
The totals were also 19.29% higher than the first three months of 2020, when the coronavirus began to intensify.
With international travel still hobbled by the virus, 95% of Sunshine State tourists came from other states.
In the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2019, 2.28 million overseas tourists came to Florida.
That number dipped to 1.76 million in the first quarter of 2020 and plunged to just 492,000 over that span in 2021.
This year, foreign tourism recovered some lost ground with 1.32 million overseas visitors.
Spearheaded by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida relaxed COVID-19 restrictions before other states and declined to introduce vaccine mandates for restaurants and entertainment venues.
The tourism surge has also come amid a string of political controversies in the state, including DeSantis’ tussle with Disney over legislation that bans instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for kids in kindergarten through the third grade.
Buoyed by increasing tourism figures, Florida lawmakers want a $50 million allocation to fund new marketing efforts during the 2022-2023 fiscal year.