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Tourism leaders anticipate travel uptick with increased vaccine availability

Posted at 5:26 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 17:26:07-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Tourism leaders say they hope we're now turning a corner after the hardships of COVID-19 and putting more travel dollars back into Tallahassee's economy.

According to data collected by Visit Tallahassee, travel and tourism poured more than $1 billion into Tallahassee and Leon County in 2019.

"We welcomed more than 2.5 million and supported over 16,000 of our friends and neighbors and families employed in the tourism and hospitality industry here in our community," said Kerri Post, Director of Leon County's division of tourism.

But, it was one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, experiencing more than $275 million of losses in 2020. So far this year, Visit Tallahassee measured a 20% decrease in visitors, and a 9 percent drop in hotel occupancy.

"But travel and tourism is extremely resilient," Post says. "We are already seeing indicators here locally that things are ... hopefully turning a corner again with access and availability of vaccines."

One such indicator is a relative increase in traffic at the Tallahassee International Airport.

"Just a couple months ago, we were 60 percent lower than where we were pre-pandemic," says Jim Durwin, Deputy Director of Aviation. "Now, though, we're seeing 40-45%, and we would anticipate to continue to make improvements as we progress through the year."

Another is more travelers looking forward to a return to normalcy.

"I don't feel at risk and I thought that was pleasant to see the change that we are finally starting to transition back into a more normal non-mask wearing environment although most people are still wearing masks," said traveler William Haus.

Post reminds travelers that while tourism is rebounding, now is not the time to let down your guard. TSA has extended the mask-wearing requirement for all flying travelers through September of this year.