Lockdown-Free Florida Top Vacation Spot for Holidays | Health news
By KELLI KENNEDY and CODY JACKSON, Associated Press
MIAMI BEACH (AP) – Caged tourists eager to try Florida’s sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, and warmer climates are flocking to the Sunshine State and have topped pre-pandemic levels in recent months.
Miami is one of the top search destinations on travel websites and nationwide Florida had 32.5 million travelers from July to September this year, surpassing the number of visitors in that period before the 2019 pandemic, Governor Ron DeSantis said recently.
The state has been bolstered year-round by the business-friendly, anti-lockdown, and anti-mask restrictions imposed by the Republican governor, which allowed one of Florida’s major economic drivers to flourish even as tourism declined in other parts of the country.
Now that Snowbirds have returned and are planning other vacation trips, hotels and tourism experts are reporting a noticeable upturn. Miami – and Florida – have grown in popularity since the borders opened to international travel earlier this month, though plans and logistics could be mixed up with the advent of the new COVID-19 variant of Omicron.
“The moment the borders and flights reopened in November, we started seeing bookings from Europe and South America,” said Milton Sgarbi, vice president of 1 Hotel South Beach, one of Miami’s most luxurious oceanfront resorts.
“We had bachelorette parties, we had reunions, we had weddings, not as big as they used to be, but small weddings almost every weekend. We had three weddings last weekend. “
Despite the pandemic, the high-end hotel flourished among vacationers in 2021. Usually they see a balanced mix of business and leisure, but he expects the business market to pick up along with the international tourists in 2022
Karen Aguilar came to Miami in November – just weeks after the borders reopened – to soak up the sun from Bucaramanga, Colombia.
“You have to come and enjoy the view, the beaches, the people. It’s very friendly and yes I’ll be back, “she said.
Miami and Florida tend to have a balanced mix of domestic and international tourism, but with borders closed in 2021 due to COVID-19, cities launched massive marketing campaigns wooing US tourists tired of being locked up.
“Domestic tourism came back like a gangster,” said Rolando Aedo of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “One of the ways we increased our market share of domestic visitors was that Florida and Miami were open while others weren’t open and there was a lot of catching up to do.”
While much of the country was closed, several new hotels opened in Miami; Airlines like Southwest and JetBlue added Miami routes for the first time; and Aedo said the country’s cruise capital, Miami, paved the way for new port terminals to meet demand as several cruise lines, including Virgin, recently came on board here.
Miami is also expanding as a travel destination: In addition to the ever-popular South Beach, the up-and-coming arts district of Wynwood has developed into a top attraction. Wynwood officials estimate that nearly 6 million visitors will have visited the trendy area by 2021, up from about 5 million in 2020.
Chic new restaurants and boutiques have opened year-round in Wynwood, where most of the buildings and sidewalks are covered in large, colorful murals. TripAdvisor even named Wynwood one of the coolest hipster destinations in the United States
Andrew Cronin, a resident of Orlando, Florida, has visited South Beach several times but now says, “I love coming to Wynwood and Brickell a little more because you can really feel the real Miami experience, like the heart of Miami.”
Always popular during the tourist season, Orlando theme park now has big draws like Disney’s 50th anniversary; new attractions, including the Peppa Pig theme park, which opens in February; and several new hotels.
“The holiday season will be strong for our destination,” said Casandra Matej, President and CEO of Visit Orlando.
The advance bookings for Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Orlando are around 95% compared to the public holidays in 2019.
“If we look ahead, bookings for January and February are three times the volume we saw at that time last year,” said Matej.
According to VISIT FLORIDA, vacation rentals across Florida are 42% higher than 2019 by the end of the year, and seating capacity on domestic flights is nearly 4% higher.
By March, 50 new hotels are to be opened throughout the Sunshine State.
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