Bay Area Sees Spike In Visitors As Florida Reports Record Number Of Tourists


Record tourism numbers

Catherine Hawley reports.

TAMPA, Fla.A record number of tourists visited Florida during the first three months of the year. In the Tampa Bay area, visitation numbers are also shattering records, even ones set pre-pandemic.

The Sunshine State welcomed 36 million visitors in the first three months of the year. With many of those tourists flocking to Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

For two years in a row, we’ve been the busiest travel destination in the country,” said Santiago Corrada, president & CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

He said that is based on hotel occupancy. For the month of March, both Visit St Pete/Clearwater and Visit Tampa Bay reported hotel occupancy percentages above the statewide average of 81.4%.

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“When a visitor comes to town, only a percentage of their dollar is spent on lodging. It’s about 30%,” Corrada said. “The other 70% of their dollar goes for food and beverage, recreation, transportation, entertainment.”

Every person paying to stay somewhere is charged a six percent tourist development tax, or bed tax.

In Hillsborough, previous record-setting bed tax collections are being shattered.

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“January, February, March, huge record setters, although we’ve been setting records since last April, believe it or not. So it’s almost a whole year of record-setting months,” said Corrada.

The bed tax reported in February by Visit Tampa Bay reflects the more than $5 million collected in January. February’s collections topped $6 million, and April’s tourist development tax collected in March surpassed $7 million.

“It’s pretty remarkable that Tampa has become this destination of choice, Hillsborough County, that people are coming here from all over the country,” Corrada said.

A similar boom is happening in Pinellas County where monthly bed tax collections for March eclipsed previous records, hitting more than $13 million.

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It appears this momentum is not slowing down heading into summer.

“We have preliminary numbers on April and May, and they are going gangbusters. So we’re going to continue to see these records fall as these numbers become official,” said Corrada.

Local airports are seeing massive passenger growth as well. Sarasota Bradenton International says between January and the end of April they had more passengers than they typically see in an entire calendar year.

Tampa International Airport had 31.5% more travelers this April compared to April 2021. 

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