VISIT FLORIDA introduced some much-needed sunshine to Toronto on Tuesday night time (Jan. 17) because the crew met with journey companions at a networking reception at MARKED restaurant downtown.

As margaritas and sliders have been served, Dana Younger, CEO and President of VISIT FLORIDA, which is represented by Vox Worldwide in Canada, enthusiastically shared the most recent vacation spot updates with PAX.

Canada is the primary worldwide customer supply for Florida, and whereas Canadians are returning to the Sunshine State’s seashores, theme parks and wildlife reserves, the vacation spot hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic numbers simply but.

Round 4 million Canadians visited Florida in 2019, Younger mentioned, and in 2022, in the course of the first three quarters, that quantity reached the 1.6 million mark (this additionally recognizing that Canada’s pre-departure testing rule didn’t carry for absolutely vaccinated travellers till April 1).

As soon as outcomes for This fall are in, Younger expects visitation numbers from Canada to be roughly half of what they have been pre-COVID.  

It’s not that Canadians aren’t excited to journey – the 1000’s of passengers that crammed Canadian airports final spring and summer season, and in the course of the holidays, factors to an enthusiastic market.

It actually comes right down to carry and capability, Younger mentioned.

“Air Canada might be the closest again to their authentic capability,” she mentioned. “They’ve extra flights [to Florida], however they’ve much less capability as a result of they’re utilizing smaller planes.”

Vancouver market heats up

Nonetheless, there was thrilling developments in bettering Canada’s connectivity with Florida.  

In December, Air Canada resumed continuous business flights between Vancouver (YVR) and Miami (MIA) after an 18-year hiatus.

That direct flight from YVR to MIA takes roughly 5 hours and 45 minutes, whereas the return takes roughly six hours and 45 minutes.

It’s a giant deal. Beforehand, the one different continuous flight from B.C. to Florida was WestJet‘s once-weekly path to Orlando.

“We’re simply thrilled about this,” Younger mentioned.

Dana Young, CEO and President of VISIT FLORIDA. (Pax Global Media)

And for travellers in B.C., it’s “shorter than going to Hawaii,” Younger identified. “Florida is cheaper, individuals can hire a automotive simply, and there is much more range in merchandise,” she mentioned.

Hearsay has it that one in all Air Canada’s opponents can be seeking to launch a brand new Vancouver-Miami flight.

“Vancouver is beginning to be the new ticket,” Younger mentioned.

Daytona Beach, Florida. (Visit Florida)

Florida’s primary

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida, for essentially the most half, remained open. Journey and tourism didn’t actually shut and native companies weren’t pressured to rehire or retrain workers.

In different phrases, the Florida expertise that Canadians have come to know and love remains to be there.

However Florida has additionally been exceling in different methods – particularly with regard to the place it suits into the U.S. worldwide inbound market as a complete.

For years, New York was primary, holding down a minimum of 30 per cent of the market share, with Florida coming in at quantity two.

From left: Susan Bowman, Transat Distribution Canada; Sandra Wesson, Transat Distribution Canada; Paul Larcher, VoX International. (Pax Global Media)

This, nonetheless, modified in 2021 when Florida surpassed New York, and by 2022, it dominated the worldwide inbound market at 44.6 per cent, Younger mentioned.

“We’ve not solely surpassed New York, however we have now crushed it,” Younger instructed PAX. “We love that.”

Florida’s advertising and marketing and coaching actions in Canada – even in the course of the darkest days of the pandemic – didn’t decelerate both.

“We by no means stopped with our dedication to our Canadian companions,” Younger mentioned.

READ MORE: These Kissimmee trip properties are on the doorstep of Florida’s high theme parks

There was, notably, VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing campaign referred to as “Wanderlust: Florida,” a docu-series that aired on the Climate Community and shined a light-weight on most of the state’s hidden gems.

New journey tendencies emerged as properly: in Kissimmee, simply south of Orlando close to Disney World, the demand for rentable trip properties took off as households sought out their very own private house exterior of conventional lodges, the place dad and mom may additionally work remotely in a snug, spacious setting.

Travel advisors tour a luxury vacation home at The Bear's Den Resort Orlando. (Pax Global Media)

One in all Florida’s primary messages throughout COVID was that it’s not a crowded state and that locals dwell most of their life exterior due to heat temperatures and entry to an abundance of parks and wetlands.

Main theme parks – like Walt Disney World Resort and Common Orlando Resort, which proceed to develop with new points of interest – and Florida’s 825 miles of gorgeous seashores proceed to be a significant draw for vacationers.

“However we’re additionally making an attempt to teach the buyer about issues they will do which are a brief drive away from key airports like Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami,” Younger mentioned.

Michelin enters the image

That is the place new and thrilling culinary experiences enter the image: Florida, final yr, launched its inaugural Michelin Information for Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.

“Which we’re tremendous pleased with,” Younger mentioned. “It has been an enormous deal for our restaurant scene in Florida.”

The primary spherical of Michelin stars have been launched final spring and new designations are more likely to be revealed this summer season, she mentioned.

However past Michelin-rated venues, there’s additionally a push to advertise Florida’s numerous delicacies usually, from five-star eating to beach-side meals vans to Cuban bakeries to ice pops.

Lunchtime in Panama City, Florida. (Visit Florida)

Native culinary gems are highlighted in a sequence of 10 to 12-minute movies referred to as “You’ve got Gotta Attempt This: Chef’s Version” whereby Cooks showcase much-loved dishes and advocate a restaurant (or Chef) in one other metropolis, whether or not it’s a pie store in Jacksonville or an Italian restaurant in Tampa.

Journey accessible to all

Florida has additionally made progress in its objective to change into the “primary accessible vacation spot on this planet.”

VISIT FLORIDA has been updating its web site with new assets for individuals of all skills and, pre COVID, the crew launched a video sequence, referred to as “Limitless Florida,” which exhibits actions Floridians and friends, of all skills, can do within the state.

READ MORE: VISIT FLORIDA’s objective to be the “primary accessible vacation spot on this planet”

The initiative began with a module on VISIT FLORIDA’s web site, which has since grown into an in-depth useful resource of journey suggestions, options and partnerships that spotlight accessible lodges and actions.

At the moment within the works is a partnership with a social enterprise referred to as Wheel the World, which maps out resort rooms for travellers with imaginative and prescient impairment or low imaginative and prescient.

“We realized that so a lot of our guests have some kind of incapacity, both bodily or non-visual,” Younger mentioned. “And we realized that assets weren’t obtainable.”

“When you’re a household or an individual that has a necessity for accessible lodging, now you can go to, entry our accessibility portal, and hopefully lookup a resort and discover what’s obtainable…It is grown by leaps and bounds.”

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