By John Morton
The result of most travel restrictions abroad being lifted in November, Sarasota County’s international tourist numbers are slowly beginning to rebound.
“Our international numbers have crept up each month since than ban was lifted, but not back on pace by any means,” said Virginia Haley, president of the Visit Sarasota County organization that serves as the region’s tourism marketing arm. “Still, Canada is No. 1 followed by the UK (United Kingdom) and Germany.”
Haley reports these numbers for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1:
In quarter one (October through December of 2021), Canada had 9,980 visits to the county, representing 3.2% of total visitors. The UK had 3,830 (1.2%) and Central Europe 4,320 (1.4%). In total, 6.7% of the visitors were international.
In quarter two (January through March of 2022), Canada had 12,550 visits to the county, representing 3.2% of total visitors. The UK had 3,920 (1%) and Central Europe 4,140 (1.1%). In total, 8.3% of the visitors were international.
Continued efforts to draw international tourists will be bolstered by Visit Sarasota County’s reconnection with marketing firms in the UK and Europe beginning again in February. Budget cuts in 2020 had temporarily severed those ties.
Kelly Defebo, director of sales with Visit Sarasota County, recently attended the annual IPW international inbound travel trade show in Orlando. It’s where the U.S Travel Association’s members interact with travel buyers and media from more than 70 countries to showcase their vacation destinations.
“It’s the largest trade show where the U.S. sells itself to the world,” Haley said.
Defebo reported to Sarasota County’s Tourism Development Council on June 9 that she not only met with UK and German representatives, but also had 65 meetings with other representatives while at the event.
Invited by Defebo to make presentations to the Tourism Development Council, a member of an international travel-related firm from both the UK and Germany reported a steady increase in travel to Florida from their respective regions – thanks in part by improving economic conditions.
For example, Muna Abanour and Dru Bryan of the UK trade Firm GOSHPR reported that the UK general economy is forecasted to grow by 3.5% this year, which is more than twice the pre-pandemic trend rate. Furthermore, more than 157,000 Britons visited Florida in the first three months of 2022.