ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando International Airport was the busiest airport for departures in the country over the 21-day holiday season, according to the TSA.

What You Need To Know

  • OIA was the busiest airport in the country for departures this holiday season

  • Airport was still down about 42% from the 21-day holiday travel season last year

  • Departures topped estimates by more than 100,000 at OIA for the holidays

Economic forecasters say that where there’s an increase in travelers, there’s an increase in tourism dollars, and this could be a sign that things are looking up in 2021.

A couple of businesses along Orlando's International Drive, in the tourist district, said this past holiday season brought much more business than they were expecting during the pandemic.

The travel numbers through OIA were much higher than airport officials anticipated, though they were down 42% from 2019’s holiday season, pre-pandemic.

That said, OIA shot past its departure passenger number predictions for this year by more than 100,000.

One economic expert said it's a good sign, and not just for the airport.

“It presents, or indicates, a much more rapid recovery than I think was expected when we were at the worst of this pandemic, and there was virtually no passenger traffic at the airport,” said Sean Snaith, Director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Forecasting.

Both Snaith and the CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which operates the airport, think the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines have a lot to do with the stronger-than-expected travel numbers.

Snaith said the numbers indicate that Central Florida is on track to recover from the economic losses of the pandemic more quickly than expected.​