ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida could soon see the return of international visitors, who have been unable to travel to the region because of COVID-19 restrictions.
What You Need To Know
- International visitors could soon return to Central Florida
- Biden administration announced new guidelines for vaccinated travelers
- Central Florida's tourism economy also relies on money generated by overseas visitors
International travel, which is big part of the tourism economy, has been on hold due to the pandemic.
In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Florida welcomed an estimated 10.8 million visitors from other countries, according to marketing agency Visit Florida. In 2020, that number dropped 74% to an estimated 2.8 million visitors.
New guidelines from the Biden administration will pave the way for those numbers to rebound.
On Monday, federal officials announced that international visitors will be allowed to enter the country provided they show proof of vaccination as well as a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of boarding a flight to the U.S.
The new policy will go into effect in early November, allowing visitors from the United Kingdom and other top tourist markets to return the Orlando area.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings sees the travel update as welcomed news.
“We’re very excited,” Demings said Monday during a coronavirus update. “With the potential expansion to the international markets, that is going to assist our economy well I think in recovery.”
Universal Orlando also showed its excitement with a tweet welcoming back international visitors.
“To our fans across the Globe, we’re THRILLED to welcome you back, read the caption on the tweet, which also included a graphic that said “We’re excited to see you!”
But how quickly international visitors return to Central Florida could depend on a number of factors, including lingering concerns about the virus. With Delta variant still high in Florida, some tourists might choose to wait.
One of the biggest reasons people from overseas visit Central Florida is the theme parks, which reopened last summer after closing for a few months in response to the pandemic. Most parks in the area have eased the COVID-19 measures that were put in place during the reopening, but some parks still have them in place. Disney World is requiring visitors to wear face masks while at all indoor locations, including restaurants, indoor attractions and enclosed transportation.
Businesses ready to welcome tourists back
Businesses who depend on international travel are optimistic following the announcement that vaccinated international travelers could return in November.
Daniel Waldron spent part of Wednesday putting the final touches on some short term rental properties he hopes to rent out to international travelers again.
“We are super excited that the Biden Administration announced a relaxation of the travel restrictions starting in November,” he said.
He says when he heard the news Monday he couldn’t contain his excitement.
“Oh my gosh, like I was texting all the other managers at Vista Cay here, we were so excited!” Waldron said.
There’s a big reason Waldron and others are so excited to have international travelers come back to Orlando.
“Forty percent of our business is international, a lot of those are Europeans, and many from South America,” Waldron said.
That’s a big chunk of business Daniel and his whole team have been missing out on for more than 18 months.
Daniel says they’re already seeing international customers respond to the upcoming change.
“We’re seeing a huge uptick in international travelers booking reservations for 2022 now that this news has been announced,” he said.
Which gives Waldron and his team hope of a bright future ahead.
“It is a huge part of our business, and without it we really can’t get back to normal,” he said.