Feb 17, 2021 - News
COVID ends Florida's decade-long run of record tourism
Data: Visit Florida; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic ended a decade of record-setting tourism numbers in Florida, according to new numbers from the state's tourism marketing agency.

The state of play: The bad news comes the same week organizers decided to cancel Tampa's Gasparilla Parade of Pirates and Children's Gasparilla parade this year due to virus concerns.

  • "Knowing how Gasparilla is, it’s hard to imagine social distancing going on as Gasparilla brings hundreds of thousands of people to Bayshore," Peter Lackman, captain of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, told the Tampa Bay Times.
  • The events are rescheduled for Jan. 22 and Jan. 29, 2022.

Driving the news: Visit Florida posted preliminary figures early this week showing 86.7 million visitors came to the Sunshine State in 2020. That was the lowest annual total since 2010.

  • The state attracted a record 131.4 million tourists in 2019, the culmination of year-to-year growth since 2009 when Florida had 80.9 million visitors.

The big picture: The hospitality and leisure industries have suffered the most since the pandemic, per the News Service of Florida.

  • Before the pandemic, the state estimated 1.6 million jobs were supported by tourism. Last week, the U.S. Travel Association reported four in 10 jobs lost nationally over the past year were in the leisure and hospitality industries.

One last blow ... Cruises likely won't return to Port Tampa Bay until fall, maybe even until 2022, the Times reports.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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