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While Florida's tourism dipped slightly in 2023, international tourism continued strong rebound

People play in the water along a Florida Beach. A skyline of condos and hotels are in the background.
Rebecca Blackwell
In a file photo from July 2023, people enjoy South Beach in Miami Beach, Fla. While the total number of tourists visiting Florida dropped slightly in 2023, officials say the number of international tourists continues to grow.

The Visit Florida tourism-marketing agency reported an 18.3% increase in international tourists compared to 2022.

While Florida saw a slight decline in the total number of tourists in 2023, the number of international visitors continues to show a strong rebound following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2023, Florida welcomed an estimated 135 million tourists according to the Visit Florida tourism marketing agency. That’s down from 137.4 million the year before, but up from 131.1 million in 2019 – the last full year of data before the pandemic.

Visit Florida reported an 18.3% increase in international tourists year over year, with 8.3 million from overseas (up 18.7% from 2022) and 3.8 million from Canada (up 45.5%).

Agency officials said this is the closest the state’s international visitation has come to full recovery since the beginning of the pandemic. They also say it’s noteworthy considering current economic challenges.

"Even as we faced the challenges of rising travel costs and widespread inflation, Florida's tourism sector not only persevered but flourished," Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young said in a statement.

In 2023, a record 45.9 million visitors flew into Florida, the largest number since 2016.

The agency also saw a 15.9% increase in fourth quarter 2023 overseas visitors and a 22% increase in fourth quarter Canadian visitors compared to 2022. However, there was a decrease of 12.1% in domestic tourists year over year.

And the area hit by Hurricane Ian in Sept. 2022 posted a recovery.

In the fourth quarter 2023, Fort Myers saw a 32.4% increase in visitors, compared to the same period a year earlier. The Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau reported the fourth-quarter visitation was up by 65.8% compared to 2022.

The News Service of Florida reports the state Senate has proposed $80 million for Visit Florida in its proposed budget for the upcoming 2024-2025 fiscal year, the same as in the current year. The House has countered with a $30 million proposal, and Gov. Ron Desantis has recommended $105 million.

Madelyn Todd is a WUSF-USF Zimmerman Rush Family Digital News intern for spring of 2024.
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