Visit Florida welcomes record-breaking attendance at annual Florida Huddle

Visit Florida has reported record-breaking numbers for its annual Florida Huddle conference.

Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center from Feb. 4 to Feb. 6, this year’s event drew 728 registered attendees from global markets including Canada, Mexico, and countries throughout Latin America.

Florida Huddle encompasses a two-day tradeshow, during which hundreds of attendees have the opportunity to enjoy educational sessions and network with international suppliers and wholesalers.

The Canadian connection

In 2023, Florida recorded 8.31 million overseas visits, with the average visitor spending $1,265.00 per person.

Data presented by Visit Florida shows that the destination is starting 2024 strong, with arrival numbers coming quite close to pre-pandemic levels of 2019, during which the state saw 9.80 million overseas visits.

Of those statistics, Canada remains the top country for international arrivals to Florida in 2023, followed by the United Kingdom, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, a country whose visitation to Florida by air is at an all-time high, posting 514,000 visits in 2023.

Additional information taken from a recovery index shows that air visitation from Canada to Florida has surpassed 2019 levels every month, and the biggest improvement over 2019 happened in December 2023, with Visit Florida representatives hopeful that this could mean strong visitation from the Canadian market in the first quarter of the year. In 2022, 2,790,000 Canadians visited Florida, thanks in part to increased lift from air partners and ongoing trade efforts.

“Data shows us that we’re at a 94 per cent recovery rate with the Canadian market,” said president and CEO of Visit Florida, Dana Young. “Canada is truly a bright spot for us right now.”

According to Young, in the first quarter of this year, visitation numbers to Florida were up 168 per cent from the year before. On average, Canadians are also staying longer in destination, with the average stay in 2022 at 13 nights.

A record recovery

As afar as air visitation is concerned, the “recovery” trajectory with visitation to Florida began in April 2023, with September posting a particularly strong month.

Florida is currently outpacing the rest of the U.S. as far as recovery is concerned; according to a spokesperson for Visit Florida, at no point did total air visitation from Canada to the U.S. surpass 2019 levels.

“Florida has been at the forefront of this recovery,” said Young. “The world has looked to Florida as something of a beacon of what could happen if everything went right as we get back to travelling. We have seen tremendous enthusiasm from our partners and key markets, and I think it’s a culmination of a lot of hard work, including the relationships we have in our key country markets.”

The silver lining in the midst of a global pandemic is that it outlined the importance of travel meetings and events to tourism’s economy, added David Whitaker, president and CEO of Greater Miami CVB. “We can be a major vehicle for recovery, and travel and tourism are an economic engine for many.”

Trade efforts and initiatives

According to Young, the Canadian travel agent community is more important than ever.

“We’re seeing more travellers go back to a travel agent because the convenience and security is there; when things are cancelled or things change, the travel agent cannot be understated,” Young said.

This year, 80 new certified Florida specialists have completed the e-learning program offered through TravelPro.

In spring 2024, Visit Florida will begin new campaigns with Air Canada, WestJet and Transat. There are currently nine destinations with significant capacity from Canada between February and April of this year, including: Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Fort Myers, Sanford West Palm Beach, Sarrasota/Bradenton and Naples.

Currently, there are 1,096,000 scheduled seats on flights from Canada to Florida between February and April 2024, which represents an 18 per cent increase from 2023 and a 13 per cent increase from 2019.

Florida Huddle will conclude on Feb. 6.

This Just In … 

In 2025, Florida Huddle will take place from Feb 3-5 at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida.

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