Even with Bad News, Florida Remains Strong Tourism Target

Despite predictions of a tourism drop-off to Florida in the wake of last year’s Orlando nightclub attack that killed 49 people, a highly publicized Zika virus threat, and the recent Fort Lauderdale airport shootings, there has been no tangible effect on tourism to South Florida so far, and travel companies are actually gearing up for record arrivals in 2017.

According to a report in South Florida Business Journal, Stacy Ritter, CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau says: “We are not seeing any effect on tourism as a result of this senseless and random act (the airport shootings)….We are confident that the goodwill we have built with visitors will assure our continued tourism popularity and success.”

As reported in the New York Times, any damage to Florida’s travel markets because of the random shooting and Zika appear to be minimal, and several indicators show that tourism to the state is thriving despite a slight, temporary decline in hotel occupancy in Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale following the Orlando attacks and the presence of Zika in Miami.


Still appealing to tourists

Citing Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University in New Jersey, the Times reports that “Florida is appealing to every kind of traveler, so the long-term tourism prospects are strong….You have the beach, gaming, Disney World and a wide range of budget and luxury accommodation options, and while any calamity in a destination tends to have an immediate decline in visitation to that destination, the decline is usually temporary.”

So far Florida industry sources say trip bookings through to the end of March, especially to Orlando, appear to be strong.

Data from Florida’s official tourism agency Visit Florida shows that just over 85 million visitors traveled to Florida in the first three quarters of 2016, a 5.5 percent increase over the previous year.  That encompasses 3.081 million Canadians (3.8 percent less than the previous year to date. Overall, in 2015, more than 106 million tourism trips were made to Florida from within domestic, international and Canadian sources. Generally, Canada accounts for about one quarter of all international visitors to the state of Florida).


Canadian visits moderating, but still strong

Citing full-year data, Visit Florida projections show that Canadians remain by far the most vibrant international source of visitors to the state—3,797,000 in 2015; the UK was next with 1,696,000; and Brazil third with 1,475,000.

Nonetheless, when individual countries are grouped into regions, it appears that Europe, as a whole, is Florida’s number one source of tourism (4,194,000 visits in 2015; South America second with 3,951,000; and Canada third, with 3,797,000.) That is a slight reversal in rankings 2/3 from the previous year—when Canada was in second spot and South America in third—due to slight drop offs from both regions between 2014 to 2015.

According to various Canadian sources, including Statistics Canada and the Conference Board of Canada, much of the drop off in Canadian travel to Florida (and the U.S. generally) is due to the strong American dollar vis-a-vis the loonie. This is also seen as accounting for a continuing shift of Canadian travel to non-U.S. markets, particularly to Europe (where the euro/loonie exchange rates have been more favourable to Canadians) and to growing family to family visits to Asia and Pacific regions.


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