The beaches in Duval County draw thousands of tourists every year.The beaches in Duval County draw thousands of tourists every year.
The beaches in Duval County draw thousands of tourists every year. l Ryan Ketterman

Tourism down locally after two exceptional years

Published on August 24, 2023 at 12:24 pm

The number of tourists visiting Duval County fell nearly 10% in the second quarter this year, but the news might not be as bad as it appears.

Visit Jacksonville, the city’s tourism agency, says the last two years brought abnormally high tourism after the lockdowns of the pandemic. This year’s numbers are returning to the solid years before the pandemic, tourism leaders say.

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From April through June this year, Duval County recorded 5,827,813 estimated visitors, 9.8% fewer than the 6,467,584 in the same period last year. But for all of 2023, the number of visitors is consistent with the years before the pandemic: 13,804,094 this year, 23,025,527 in 2018 and 22,998,898 in 2019, Visit Jacksonville says

In addition, hotel data indicates the industry is healthy. The average daily room rate is $22 higher than in 2018, and room revenue this year totals $342 million, compared with $472 million for all of 2018, Visit Jacksonville says.

The trend is important because tourism is major economic driver in Northeast Florida. Visit Jacksonville says tourism pumps $3.8 billion into the local economy annually — or $10.4 million a day. More than 50,000 people work in the tourism industry.

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Nassau County has seen results similar to Duval’s. The Amelia Island Tourism Development Council says the total number of visitors between April and June this year was 233,300, down from 1.3% from the same period last year.

Jacksonville Today reached out to officials in St. Johns County and St. Augustine for tourism numbers but did not hear back.

Florida as a whole drew an estimated 33 million visitors from April through June this year, which is down from the 33.4 million during the same time in 2022. Visit Florida says the state faced increased competition from other states and countries that had longer COVID-19 restrictions than Florida.

State and local tourism officials downplay the effect of groups that discouraged travel to Florida because of policies related to Blacks and LGBTQ residents.

The NAACP, the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Florida issued travel advisories because of new laws they say erase Black history and restrict diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Visit Jacksonville officials say they are not aware of any businesses canceling trips due to the advisories.


author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Steven Ponson has six years of experience covering news in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. Prior to arriving on the First Coast, Steven also worked in radio in Orlando. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in radio and television. Steven has been a reporter, producer, anchor and board operator. Outside of work, Steven loves to watch sports, cook delicious cajun food (as any good Louisiana native does) and spend time outdoors.
author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Steven Ponson has six years of experience covering news in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. Prior to arriving on the First Coast, Steven also worked in radio in Orlando. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in radio and television. Steven has been a reporter, producer, anchor and board operator. Outside of work, Steven loves to watch sports, cook delicious cajun food (as any good Louisiana native does) and spend time outdoors.

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