West Volusia matched the rest of the Sunshine State in seeing a major increase in the number of tourists in the April-through-June period of this year.
Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, released preliminary estimates of 31.7 million travelers coming to Florida in that three-month second quarter, an increase of more than 220 percent over the prior year, the agency said in a news release.
Visit Florida said 30.6 million visitors traveled to Florida from other states in the quarter, reflecting a 216-percent increase from 2020, and a 6-percent increase from 2019.
Despite ongoing international travel restrictions, Visit Florida reported preliminary estimates also indicate that 1.1 million overseas visitors came to Florida in the second quarter of 2021, an increase of 854 percent from last year. Travel from Canada rose by more than 74 percent, with 15,000 Canadian travelers visiting the state between April and June.
“Florida tourism’s skyrocketing growth in [the second quarter of] 2021 is an incredible achievement for our state’s economic recovery and underscores the effectiveness of Visit Florida’s marketing,” President and CEO Dana Young said in the news release. “Visit Florida remains wholly focused on driving even more results for Florida’s tourism economy and showcasing everything our great state has to offer to travelers.”
West Volusia has seen similarly spectacular results for that three-month period, although the growth is reflected in bed-tax revenue rather than actual visitor counts. Bed taxes are a share of the taxes levied on all short-term visitor rentals, including hotels and motels, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, and campgrounds.
According to Volusia County’s figures, West Volusia’s bed-tax collections for January and February of this year trailed those of the same months a year earlier. But March 2021 collections edged the previous March, and in the next three months — April through June — collections were two to three times higher than the year-earlier numbers.
The county hasn’t reported any bed-tax collection figures since June, but the head of the agency that markets West Volusia is still optimistic.
“We had a great summer despite the pandemic,” said Georgia Turner, executive director of the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority, who also sits on the board of directors at Visit Florida. “It’s started to slow down a bit in the last week or so with school starting, but with Stetson [University] starting back up, we are hopeful for the fall.”
Turner said visitors overwhelmingly asked for information about local trails. (Second-most popular was requests for information by people thinking of moving to this area.)
West Volusia has three trail systems, Turner explained — “traditional” trails, including the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop and Coast-to-Coast Trails; the new CoolCraft Beverage Trail; and the ever-popular Wings of the West Trail.
“People were asking about all three of them,” she said. “We will continue to advertise and promote these assets as well as other outdoor attractions, arts, culture and history, weddings and wellness.”