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Fla. Topped Nation in International Visitors

The number of international tourists – and by extension potential buyers – rose 73% between 2021 and 2022, but it’s still down 28% when compared to 2019.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – International tourism has increased faster in Florida than other parts of the nation, but it’s less than it was before the pandemic, state tourism officials said this week.

Visit Florida officials unveiled international travel figures from the final three months of 2022, and they reflected the ongoing effects of global inflation, lengthy visa-processing times and COVID-19 vaccine mandates for foreign air travelers coming to the United States. Full fourth-quarter tourism figures will be released in about two weeks.

Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young said Thursday the number of overseas travelers to Florida during the quarter topped 2 million.

That would be the highest quarterly figure since the last three months of 2019, when 2.6 million overseas tourists came to Florida. The COVID-19 pandemic slammed into the state’s economy in early 2020, with the tourism industry particularly hit hard.

In all, Florida had about 7.02 million overseas visitors in 2022, up 73% from 2021 but 28% below the 9.801 million in 2019, the new quarterly estimate indicates.

A drop in Canadian visitors

Meanwhile, an estimated 1 million Canadians – itemized separately in terms of international visitors – came to Florida in the fourth quarter, bringing the 2022 total to 2.749 million. By comparison, however, 4.09 million Canadians flocked to Florida in 2019, or about a one-third decline in Canadian visitors in two years.

“While there still is a way to go, Florida is significantly outperforming the rest of the nation (in international travel), which is down a whopping 39.9%,” Young told members of the Visit Florida Board of Directors during a meeting at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. “So, what we’re doing is working, and we’re going to continue to be focused on this upward trajectory.”

Florida topped the nation in international tourists based on market share, drawing 44.6%. New York, which was long the top destination of international travelers, attracted about 22% of the market.

“This is a huge strategic advantage that we’ve built from hard work during these difficult years,” Young said. “For the rest of the country, Florida was open, and we have seized on that. So, now our challenge is to maintain these advantages, maintain these market-share wins and not take our foot off the gas.”

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