Florida tourism continued to see improved numbers across the board compared to pre-pandemic levels, welcoming nearly 120 million domestic tourists in 2021, the highest level of domestic visitation in Sunshine State’s history. The increased tourism brought in local economy boosts, marking all-time high revenues for hotels and property rentals.
Governor Ron DeSantis, speaking in Fort Walton Beach, boasted Florida’s tourism numbers, revealing that in addition to the record-setting domestic tourism, Florida became the top state for international tourism, surpassing both New York and California, who previously held the top spots. DeSantis attributed the state’s tourism surge to his commitment to remaining open for business and rejecting restrictive pandemic measures.
“I think it’s because of the experience people know they’re going to get here, they’re going to be treated with respect, and their personal decisions are going to be respected,” said Desantis. “I think it’s a testament to Florida being the place really look to as a place they can say ‘okay I can escape from the burden of wherever I’m at with the mandates and the lockdowns. I want to experience freedom and feel free.’ You’re not going to be restricted and you’re not going to be mandated. Our state is doing really well as a result.”
Florida’s hotels drew in the highest total hotel revenue ever recorded at over $17.3 billion dollars, while Florida’s airports accommodated an 80 percent increase in passengers, though the Governor claims that number could be higher if lockdown measures were dropped.
“I think those numbers could be higher if Biden would get rid of the mask mandates on these airplanes. I mean how ridiculous is it that they force you to wear a mask, but if you wear it under your chin for 2 hours and sip on water, it’s fine,” quipped DeSantis. “I know there are people who just don’t want to go through the hassle of being accosted about masks. I think they should definitely remove the federal mask mandates on airlines.”
International tourism rapidly rose during the 4th quarter of 2021, bringing in 1.5 million visitors from outside the nation’s borders, a 43 percent increase from the same period of 2020. Colombia was Florida’s top point of origin, bringing in nearly 1 million individuals. Canadians also represented a large share of international tourism, especially toward the end of the year as ‘snowbirds’ that own property in south Florida made their annual trek to the warmer climate.
DeSantis concluded his press conference by condemning worker mask mandates.
“I think some restaurants have gotten past it, but I’ve been to some places, and they’re very appreciative of being in Florida and being able to work, but I’ll ask when they’re going to be liberated from the mask, and they’re all like ‘we don’t know,’ so they’re all waiting for it,” said DeSantis. “But we are proud to be able to keep this industry afloat. Most of these are family businesses running on tight margins, and running these Fauci restrictions, it’s advocating for the destruction of the livelihood of the people of this state, and we stood by to protect those livelihoods.”