Best Florida Vacation Place No Lockdown For The Holidays –

MIAMI BEACH (AP) – Locked-in tourists eager to sample Florida’s sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and warmer climates are visiting the Sunshine State in droves, surpassing pre-pandemic levels in recent months.

Miami is one of the top travel website search destinations and statewide Florida welcomed 32.5 million travelers from July to September of this year, surpassing the number of visitors during this year. pre-pandemic period 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis recently said.

The state was boosted by the Republican governor’s year-round pro-business, anti-foreclosure, and anti-mask restrictions, allowing one of Florida’s main economic engines to thrive, even as tourism declined in other parts of the country.

Now, as the snowbirds are back and others are making vacation plans, hotels and tourism experts are reporting a noticeable bump. Miami – and Florida – have become even more popular since the borders opened earlier this month to international travel, although plans and logistics may be turned upside down by the emergence of the new omicron COVID-19 variant.

“As 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, the one of Miami’s most luxurious beach resorts.

“We’ve had bachelorette parties, we’ve had meetings, we’ve had weddings, not as big as in the past, but small weddings almost every weekend. Last weekend we had three weddings.

Despite the pandemic, the upscale hotel industry flourished in 2021 with holidaymakers. Normally they see an equal mix of business and leisure, but he expects the business market to pick up in 2022, with international tourists.

Karen Aguilar came to Miami in November – just weeks after the borders reopened – to soak up the sun in Bucaramanga, Colombia.

“You have to come and enjoy the view, the beaches, the people. It’s very friendly and yes I will be back, ”she said.

Miami and Florida generally have a balanced mix of domestic and international tourism, but with borders closed due to COVID-19 in 2021, cities launched massive marketing campaigns wooing American tourists who were fed up with being locked up. .

“Domestic tourism has come back like gangbusters,” said Rolando Aedo, of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We expanded our market share of domestic visitors in part because Florida and Miami were open while others were not and there was a lot of pent-up demand. “

While much of the country has been closed, several new hotels have opened in Miami; airlines such as Southwest and JetBlue added routes to Miami for the first time; and Aedo said the nation’s cruise capital Miami has opened new port terminals to meet demand as several cruise lines, including Virgin, have recently arrived on board here.

Miami is also booming as a destination: in addition to the ever-popular South Beach, the booming arts district known as Wynwood has become a major draw. Wynwood officials estimate that nearly 6 million visitors will have visited the trendy neighborhood in 2021, up from around 5 million in 2020.

Chic new restaurants and shops have opened year round in Wynwood, where most of the buildings and sidewalks are covered in large technicolor murals. TripAdvisor even named Wynwood one of America’s coolest hipster destinations.

Andrew Cronin, a resident of Orlando, Florida, has been to South Beach several times, but now says, “I like coming a bit more to Wynwood and Brickell because you can really get the real Miami experience. , like the heart of Miami. “

The Orlando Theme Park Home is always popular during tourist season, and now has big draws such as the Disney 50th Anniversary celebration; new attractions, including the Peppa Pig theme park, which opens in February; and several new hotels.

“The holiday season is going to be strong for our destination,” said Casandra Matej, President and CEO of Visit Orlando.

Advance bookings for Christmas and New Years in Orlando are about 95% of what they were during the 2019 vacation.

“As we look ahead, bookings for January and February are triple the volume we saw at this time last year,” said Matej.

Across Florida, vacation rentals through the end of the year tend to increase 42% from 2019 and seat capacity on domestic flights is nearly 4% higher, according to VISIT FLORIDA.

And 50 new hotels are expected to open across the Sunshine State by March.

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