Canadians Visiting Florida by the Millions, Hitting Nearly Pre-Pandemic Levels

Lisa Stump

Canadians Visiting Florida by the Millions, Hitting Nearly Pre-Pandemic Levels

Nearly 1.44 million Canadians visited Florida during just the first three months of 2023, according to tourism industry experts.

Nearly 1.44 million Canadians visited Florida during the first three months of 2023, according to tourism industry experts.

Canadians Return to Nearly Pre-Pandemic Visitation Levels in the Sunshine State

Visit Florida reported Tuesday that the state brought in nearly 1.44 million Canadian tourists during the first quarter of 2023, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Travel to Florida from Canada has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels; however, there are still significant international deficits from other countries due to delayed visas, which have been complicating the state’s attempts to increase tourism visitation and revenue from other countries around the world.

With COVID-19 vaccine restrictions lifted at the Canada-U.S. border, the first-quarter number was up nearly a million visitors higher than the 488,000 Canadians counted as having visited in the first quarter of last year, in 2022. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact travel, the state drew 1.446 million Canadians in the first quarter.

“Canadian visitation is where we have seen the biggest rebound by far over the last few months,” Brett Laiken, Visit Florida’s senior vice president of marketing, told members of the agency’s Board of Directors during a meeting in St. Johns County. “Basically, we’re back to where it was prior to the pandemic, with Canadians flocking to the state, which is always good to see.”

Canada has historically been the top country of origin for international visitors to Florida, with over 4 million Canadians visiting in 2019.

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Wait Times on International Visas

Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young claimed “ridiculous visa wait times that mostly first-time visa applicants are facing” is at fault for stifling tourism within several important international markets.

As of today, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website said the wait time in Bogota, Colombia, for a non-immigrant visa appointment was a whopping 801 days. In Mexico City, it is 743 days, up from 737 days on Tuesday. In Rio De Janeiro, it was 477 days. In Paris, it is 180 days. In Sydney, Australia, the wait for an interview is 154 days.

“Peru is 387 days, which compared to the others looks good, but it’s still over a year just to get an interview, and who knows how long it’s going to take to process that,” Young said.

The Biden administration lifted COVID-19 vaccination requirements for international air travelers on May 11, the same day that the COVID-19 public health emergency ended.

Florida attracted roughly 1.8 million international visitors in the first three months of this year, which amounts to a 36% increase over 2022, but a decrease from the 2.276 million visitors who traveled to the state in the first quarter of 2019.

Visit Florida estimates the state had a record 37.9 million visitors during the first quarter of 2023. Visitors from the continental U.S. continue to drive tourism growth.

What do you think of the surge of Canadian visitors making their way to Florida? We’d like to see your opinions in the comments below.

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Author

  • Lisa Stump

    Lisa loves theme parks, black coffee, and her two Sphynx cats, Jareth and Figment. She believes the best day includes a trip around World Showcase during the EPCOT International Food & Wine festival! Her favorite attractions are Rise of the Resistance, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and "it's a small world." She can be reached at lisa.stump@wdwnt.com.