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Florida ‘open and ready’ for Brits to visit, says tourism boss

Visit Florida president Dana Young says the US state is open and ready to welcome Brits back for the first time since the pandemic.

Speaking on a trip to the UK to meet trade partners, Young, also chief executive of Visit Florida, told Travel Weekly the state was preparing for an influx of UK visitors next month.

It follows confirmation last week by the US that restrictions on travel from the UK and EU will be eased from early November. Fully-vaccinated travellers will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding as well as proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days of departure.

Young, who had meetings with British Airways, Virgin, Icelolly.com and Abta among others during the UK visit, said: “Our hospitality industry is well poised to give a great experience. Florida is a sure bet. It’s open and we are confident it will not close [to international visitors] or putting in capacity restrictions or mask mandates.

“Florida is a very safe place to go to right now; we have above the national rate of vaccinations; the vast majority have been vaccinated or had Covid and recovered.”

The state does not require visitors to wear masks in shops or hotels apart from on indoor rides at major theme parks but has health and safety protocols in place to ensure every “comfort level” is met to ensure a “fantastic vacation”, she said.

Young was confident international air capacity from the UK to the US state would be ramped up in the coming months to cater for high pent-up demand, with some airlines already reporting record sales since news of restrictions being eased, she said.

Hotel capacity will also be eased by domestic visitors going home for school term time and freeing up availability for what is traditionally a shoulder season for Florida, she said, although prices have gone up due to increased demand.

Domestic visitor numbers to Florida for the first six months of this year were up by 6% on 2019 as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions on air travel.

“This is the perfect time to visit; there will be capacity,” said Young, who added: “Prices have been higher than is typical. Demand is very high so everyone has been able to recoup some of the losses they have suffered in 2020. My guess is that will rightsize itself now [US] schools are back.”

A raft of new attractions have also been developed during the pandemic to provide new experiences for visitors while there are also new and renovated hotels. “It will be the great experience they [visitors] had before but with some new things to do and see,” she said.

The UK market was Florida’s number two market until 2020, when it was overtaken by Brazil.

Young said the reason for the visit to the UK was to highlight the importance of the UK market, which she believes could retrieve its number two spot as a result of the pent-up demand caused by the Covid pandemic.

The state will be promoting the state again at World Travel Market and has continued to train agents during the pandemic. It has introduced agent training modules on LGBTQ+ and eco tourism.

It also plans to welcome UK agents on planned fam trips to the state over coming months.

“We have a lot of fam trips in the works,” she said, adding: “We feel it’s critical we reiterate our commitment to this market and how focused we are to make sure we are top of mind with the trade and consumers.”

Visit Florida has also partnered with US accessible travel specialist TravelAbility, which is creating a listings of accessible travel options in the state, available on the tourist board’s website visitflorida.com.

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