UK visitor numbers to Florida in the first quarter of the year were only four percentage points off pre-pandemic levels as the state’s tourist board hailed a continued strong rebound.
A total of 1.11 million UK travellers visited Florida in 2022, a 17% deficit on 2019 levels. However, new figures from Visit Florida showed Q1 traffic in 2023 stood at 216,000, 96% of the number who travelled in the same period in 2019.
Visit Florida vice-president of marketing Brett Laiken said the improvement to near-pre-pandemic levels demonstrated Florida’s appeal to the UK market, where the tourist board maintained a presence during the shutdown of travel.
He also hailed the impact of new flight routes between Heathrow and Tampa and Gatwick and Fort Lauderdale, with a total of 403,000 scheduled seats now available to the state.
Average length of stay meant UK visitors were increasingly exploring beyond the main gateways and cities, he added.
“Travel from the UK isn’t a weekend jaunt so people have the time to go beyond the gateways,” Laiken said at the IPW conference in San Antonio.
“Trips are typically 10-plus days and we are seeing visitors exploring nature-based activities, our beaches and increasingly the pan handle (southern Florida) and the Treasure Coast north of Palm Beach.”
Laiken said trade engagement remained key to the tourist board’s activities, with 11 campaigns run in-market and recent visits to partners in Ireland, Scotland and the north of England.
Focuses include gastronomy, adventure travel and accessibility, with Florida setting a goal of becoming the “number one accessible destination”.
To support this aim, it has created a toolkit, held webinars with trade partners and added a module to its e-learning course.
Photo: Virgin Atlantic