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South Florida Businesses Relying On Tourism Hope To Recover From Pandemic Lows

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - With Florida's tourism high season rapidly approaching, tourism officials, hotel, motel, and restaurant owners are hoping for a solid comeback after almost two years of a COVID-impacted economy.

Looking ahead, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association issued numbers indicating business travel would be down 61% compared to 2019, the year before the pandemic hit.

Geoff Luebkemann, from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, told CBS Miami's Hank Tester, "The business sector has been lagging in return to normal."

Though booking some business meetings and conventions, the word "postponement" is often heard.

Convention and Visitors Bureaus statewide are busy hustling business, which some say is hard to come by in large volume.

On the tourism side, hotels enjoyed high occupancy as vaccinated travelers started flying and making road trips.

However, by late summer worry about the surging delta variant numbers and families returning home for the opening of schools cooled the travel numbers.

Travel agents found that families were not canceling vacations but postponing them.

Tom Stieghorst, the editor of Travel Weekly's Florida Letter says, "People are reluctant to cancel for a number of reasons, they have their hope for their vacation. They might have money down on a vacation that might be at risk if they cancel."

That postponed business will likely head Florida's way if and when the delta virus numbers drop and temperatures dip in the Northeast.

A major breakthrough for business travel and standard tourism is the Biden administration's decision to reopen the country to fully-vaccinated air travelers. It will allow thousands of international passengers to fly into South Florida.

Those restrictions phase-out in November.

"The recent relaxation of restrictions from Europe and spots abroad has been very encouraging and a much-needed lifeline in South Florida, where it is such an international destination."

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