This year has been a rough year for many of us, and Florida’s tourism industry was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. As a state that relies primarily on tourism as one of its main sources of income, the closure of Florida’s beaches, cities, and theme parks deeply impacted Florida and its economy over the past eight months. However, now that third-quarter numbers have been announced, it seems that the state’s tourism industry is slowly recovering.
Compared to 2019’s third-quarter figures, in July, August, and September, Florida’s tourism industry experienced a 32% decrease, with only two-thirds of the tourism that the state drew last summer. Last year, Florida recorded 32.4 million visitors throughout the state, while this year the number fell to 22.1 million. These numbers were released on Thursday, November 19, 2020 by Visit Florida and do not include any in-state travel and tourism by Florida residents.
While this news might initially seem negative, they also include some signs of recovery. Covid-19 impacted Florida’s tourism industry significantly more in its second-quarter, April, May, and June, with a 60.5% drop compared to 2019’s numbers. The average for this year so far results in 2020’s Florida’s tourism earnings being down 34% from last year. However, these new numbers are a definite upgrade from the second-quarter report, with optimism beginning to be found in the state’s tourism industry.
The state of Florida itself was significantly impacted by the pandemic. As of mid-November, more than 900,000 Floridians had tested positive for the virus since reporting began in March. Businesses, beaches, and most importantly, Orlando’s theme parks, scaled back or closed completely in order to slow the virus down. It wasn’t until May that Disney Springs reopened, two months after closing, with Universal Studios and SeaWorld reopening in June. Disney World reopened in July, four months after closing down in mid-March. All of the theme parks reopened with modified hours, safety practices, and capacity limits. The lack of international travel has also weighed heavily on Florida’s tourism numbers.
While the tourism numbers haven’t yet returned to “normal,” they are certainly encouraging. At the end of September, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis formally reopened that state, giving businesses, movie theaters, local tattoo shops, and theme parks permission to fully reopen. While the theme parks haven’t fully reopened, they do continue to slowly reopen shops and restaurants. Disney World recently announced that it has just increased its capacity to 35%, which is of particular interest due to the start of the holiday season, the busiest time of year at the parks.
The state, and its recovery, still has a long way to go. But these new tourism numbers, and the continued steady reopening of Orlando’s theme parks are encouraging, giving Florida and its residents some hope and optimism for the end of the year, as well as for 2021. It may take some time for the state to return to the tourism numbers that it is used to seeing, but the outlook is promising, especially given all the state has been through this year. Here’s to the fourth-quarter.