County braces for influx of trapped tourists | Local News


After spending much of the past year locked up at home, people can’t wait to get out.

They are vaccinated, maskless, and confident enough to start booking a quick vacation to enjoy the county manatees, scallop, hiking, and nature-based activities.

It’s this pent-up enthusiasm that local tourism officials hope to capitalize on when they market Citrus County in the emerging post-pandemic world.

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“They are good to go,” said John Pricher, director of the Citrus County Visitors Bureau. “I believe more people have reached the point where they feel more secure to go out and do things.”

Pricher said his department was also expanding its reach to other parts of the country that have seen an increase in visitor numbers over the past year. These locations include New York, Philadelphia, and Dallas-Fort Worth.

“As we continue to market in areas where we have been successful, we are exploring some of the emerging markets that we believe are of greater interest to the region than expected,” said Pricher.

So far, most are short-term trips, which can be more difficult for hoteliers to book.

“I think it should be a strong summer season,” said Pricher.

Citrus County collects data from Smith Travel Research (STR) to measure hotel occupancy.

In March 2019 – a year before COVID-19 hit the world – hotels in Citrus County reported an occupancy rate of 77.8%. In March 2020, when the pandemic began, the occupancy rate fell to 57.3%.

Before the April 2019 pandemic, local hotels had an occupancy rate of 63.7%. A year later, in April 2020, when the economic shutdown began, the rate fell to 24.5%.

The latest STR numbers are out and it shows a big improvement even over the pre-pandemic numbers.

In March 2021, local hotels reported an occupancy rate of 77%. April 2021, the rate reaches 70.3%.

Most visitors are domestic travelers, Pricher said. The international market, which accounts for around 20% of local tourism, is still declining.

As Pricher said, these travelers are just waiting for the green light to plan their trip.

Meanwhile, Visit Florida said the state attracted 26,162 million domestic and international visitors from Jan.1 to March 31, up from 30.4 million tourists in the first quarter of 2020.

Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young said on Tuesday the agency’s goal was to do better than a state economist’s projection that Florida’s tourism industry will recover. not fully until 2024.

Visit Florida recently reported that overseas travel was down 74.4% in the first quarter of 2021 from 2020, after dropping 70.4% for all of 2020 from 2019.

“The number of overseas visits, while low, remains encouraging,” Young said. “And Florida significantly outperforms the rest of the United States among international travelers. Although many borders remain close, we are seeing increasing footfall in certain Latin American markets, particularly Colombia and Mexico. “

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