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Florida saw fewer visitors in 2023

CBS News Live
CBS News Miami Live

TALLAHASSEE - Visitors to Florida last year fell short of 2022's record numbers, as a post-pandemic rebound in international travelers couldn't overcome a noticeable drop-off in domestic tourism late in the year.

The Visit Florida tourism marketing agency reported that Florida had an estimated 135.02 million tourists in 2023, down from 137.4 million in 2022.

Visit Florida, however, pointed to increases from 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global travel, and improved international tourist numbers. The state drew about 131.1 million tourists in 2019.

"Even as we faced the challenges of rising travel costs and widespread inflation, Florida's tourism sector not only persevered but flourished (in 2023)," Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young said in a prepared statement. "From record air travel numbers to the significant return of international visitors, Florida continues to shine."

The agency said 2.34 million overseas visitors in the fourth quarter of 2023 marked a 15.9 percent increase from the final quarter of 2022. Also, 1.07 million Canadians in the fourth quarter of 2023 was a 22 percent improvement from the same period in 2022.

But the overall fourth-quarter number in 2023 of 29.8 million tourists was down from 32.9 million during the same period in 2022. U.S. travelers dropped 12.1 percent.

Florida totaled 122.89 million U.S. tourists in 2023, down from almost 127.8 million in 2022. The domestic tourist number was about 117.2 million in 2019.

For much of the past year, industry officials have pointed to an increase in competition from other states and countries that were closed longer than Florida during the pandemic.

As pandemic restrictions lifted, Visit Florida emphasized attracting international visitors, who officials say stay longer and spend more money than domestic travelers.

Visit Florida reported 8.31 million overseas travelers in 2023, up from 7 million in 2022. Canadians accounted for 3.822 million visitors in 2023, up from about 2.63 million in 2022.

The agency indicated Florida has seen an increase in people flying to the state, accounting for 37.3 percent of the domestic visits, "the largest share of air visitors since 2016."

As state lawmakers begin budget negotiations for the upcoming 2024-2025 fiscal year, the Senate has proposed providing $80 million for Visit Florida, the same amount as in the current year. The House has countered with a $30 million proposal. Gov. Ron DeSantis recommended $105 million.

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