MIAMI (AP) — Tourists have returned to Florida in numbers that are surpassing pre-pandemic levels.
Officials at Miami International Airport are projecting the “busiest Memorial Day weekend ever," according to a news release sent Monday.
Passenger traffic at the airport was up 17% over the last 30 days, compared to the same period before the pandemic hit in 2020. The airport is currently averaging 150,000 passengers a day compared to 126,000 daily in 2019, which was a previous all-time high.
Similar growth in tourism is being seen statewide in Florida, which never had mandatory statewide mask mandates and was primarily open for businesses throughout the pandemic, even when the state was getting battered by the delta wave that killed thousands of Floridians last summer. During news conferences, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis frequently notes how businesses were open despite COVID-19 in the “free state of Florida."
Figures released earlier this year by Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency, showed that tourism statewide is now slightly surpassing numbers from before the pandemic. In the first quarter of this year, Florida had 35.9 million visitors, a 1.3% increase over the same quarter in 2019.
The 35.9 million visitors from January through March represented an almost 40% jump compared to the same quarter last year, according to Visit Florida.
Back in Miami, airport officials expect parking garages to fill to capacity starting Thursday. They note that passengers should plan on being dropped off at the airport by friends or family, a ride-hailing service or taxi.
Officials are also suggested that travelers arrive at the airport three hours early for domestic flights and three and a half hours early for international travel to have plenty of time to pass through the check-in and security checkpoint process.