COVID-19’s new variant, omicron, may have a major impact on international Florida travel moving into the New Year, according to state economists.
In the third quarter of 2021, Florida’s tourism exceeded their expectations, reporting 32.6 million visitors. In fact, Visit Florida reported that in the third quarter of 2021, the numbers surpassed those from the same period in 2019, which is before the coronavirus pandemic affected the United States and its tourism.
However, with the new omicron variant, state economists are now predicting the numbers to drop once again, especially from those coming in from Canada and overseas.
Orlando Sentinel recently reported that members of the state Economic Estimating Conference are anticipating the new omicron variant will slow the international tourism for Florida:
Saying the world is entering a time of uncertainty, members of the state Economic Estimating Conference agreed Monday to slightly lower expectations through the middle of 2022 for Canadian and overseas travelers, as the panel looked at various aspects of the Florida economy.
Holger Ciupalo, policy coordinator for the governor’s Office of Policy and Budget, said omicron will have a “dampening effect” on international travel:
“In the near term, I think, yeah, omicron and all that might have some dampening effect.”
The omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa, has now spread around the world, including in various parts of the United States. The first Florida omicron variant case was reported on December 7, 2021 at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa.
Despite this possible temporary setback due to the omicron variant, Florida is still optimistic that tourism will bounce back later in 2022. Vesselka McAlarney, an Office of Economic and Demographic Research economist, expressed a “welcoming stance in the background of increasing government-imposed rules regarding COVID and further requirements to travel internationally.”
“As we saw under the initial lockdowns, more visitors might have switched to travel to Florida to where they can drive rather than going internationally. So, we may further benefit from that,” McAlarney said.
If you plan on visiting Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando, make sure you familiarize yourself with the current rules and regulations at the theme parks.
Do you have plans to visit Florida in the near future? Are you worried about the omicron variant? Let us know in the comments below.