According to statistics from VISIT FLORIDA Research, record numbers of visitors came to Florida for nine consecutive years in a row between 2011 and 2019 but crashed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the various global lockdowns.
How Many Tourists Visit Florida Each Year?
In 2013 an estimated 94.7 million tourists visited Florida in total, up 3.6% on 2012 and then in 2014 that number grew to 97.35 million, a 2.8% increase on 2013.
In 2015 despite a small fall in international visitors, overall growth was around 6.5% topping the 100 million mark and reaching a record near 105 million visitors. A further 5.9% increase in 2016 saw numbers reach nearly 113 million.
Though international numbers continued to fall, especially from South America, overall 2017 and then 2018 and 2019 were record breaking years with over 133 million visitors, despite the impact of recent hurricanes like Irma and the red tide outbreaks.
Of the major international countries, Canada continues to show growth and Brazil has started to climb again.
These figures demonstrated that for the ninth year running, Florida was still the “Number One” US attraction for holidaymakers with year round appeal and that is has bounced back following the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
*In 2009, VISIT FLORIDA changed its visitor estimation methodology; therefore, estimates made prior to that year are not directly comparable.
In 2019, domestic visitors still made up the lions share at over 116 million, a 3.7% increase, with Canada in second place and the United Kingdom in third place. In 2020, there was a 29.7% drop in domestic visitor numbers, 64.5% drop for Canada and 70.4% drop for international.
The biggest change in the last couple of years is the drop in visitor numbers from overseas, particularly South America, and specifically from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. This is partly due to economic and political turmoil coupled with a poor economy and not being part of the US Visa Waiver Program.
Florida Tourism Statistics in 2020
So far VISIT FLORIDA Research has only released preliminary figures for 2020 and as expected they show a significant decline compared to 2019, especially in the second, third and fourth quarters.
Overall, quarter 1 is down by 12.2%, quarter 2 by a massive 60.3% and quarter 3 by 32.7%. Quarter 4 figures show a drop of 33.1%.
Total visitor numbers to Florida in 2020 was just under 87 million of which over 82 million were from the United States.
The international breakdown by country figures should be available by May/June 2021.
With the closing of the borders to many countries, there was around a 99% decrease in overseas visitors in both quarters 2 and 3 whereas domestic USA visitor numbers were only down by around 30% over the first 3 quarters.
One of President Donald Trumps last actions before he left office on January 20, 2021 was to rescind the overseas travel ban that came into effect in early 2020 but before it was due to take effect, new President Joe Biden reintroduced it and actually added another country, South Africa, to the list.
So the question “is Florida open to visitors?” was a mute point as anyone who had been in the following countries in the last 14 days was still banned from entering the United States:
- European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
- United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
- Republic of Ireland
- South Africa
The bans were finally lifted in November 2021.
Orlando Visitor Numbers
With its multiple conference facilities and theme parks, Orlando hosts the largest number of visitors to Florida each year.
It is estimated there were 75 million visitors to Orlando in 2018, an increase of 4.2% on 2017.
Of those 75 million, over 47 million arrived via Orlando International Airport (MCO) making it Florida’s busiest airport. In 2019 there were 50.1 million travellers to the airport, a 6.7% increase on 2018.
However in 2020, that figure crashed by 57% to just 21.6 million and forecasts are that 2021 will not be much better. International travel was down by 86%, not helped by the travel ban into the USA from so many countries.
Florida Tourism Statistics in 2019
Total visitor numbers to Florida in 2019 was over 131 million of which over 116 million were from the United States. Preliminary figures for 2020 are shown below.
Looking at the 2019 international numbers (2018 figures in brackets):
- Canada 3.62 million (3.55 million)
- United Kingdom 1.52 million (1.50 million)
- Brazil 1.22 million (1.22 million)
- Columbia 0.61 million (0.60 million)
- Argentina 0.58 million (0.65 million)
Overseas tourists showed a 0.1% increase compared to 2018.
In prior years, the United Kingdom (UK) was always top of the international tourist list behind Canada but in 2011 the UK at 1.3 million was knocked off the second spot by Brazil with 1.5 million visitors. Brazil has now slipped back to third place behind the UK.
Comparing these figures with as far back as 2010, the biggest gains in percentage terms came from emerging markets like Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil reflecting the impact of the economic downturn in Western Europe.
Recent Florida Tourism Statistics
The breakdown for 2009 was an estimated 71.2 million domestic (US) visitors plus a further 2.6 million from Canada. Visitors from the United Kingdom were in third spot with 1.2 million down 12% on 2008 whereas Brazil in fourth place with 0.7 million was up 29%. In 2010 Brazil visitor numbers topped the 1 million mark.
Tourists spend over $60 billion per annum in Florida bringing in nearly $4 billion in sales tax revenues (a quarter of all sales tax revenues) and creating over 1 million jobs in the tourist industry.
Another interesting statistic is the amount of money spent by foreign tourists and again Brazilians spent far more per person than say visitors from the United Kingdom, in fact they spent twice as much, taking advantage of low prices and a favourable exchange rate at the time.
To cater for this increase in Brazilian visitors, all the main theme parks are now employing Portuguese speaking workers and have launched web sites in Portuguese.