Florida’s early reopening could make it a business travel mecca

As post-pandemic business travel comes back, experts say Florida’s reopening policies should allow it to lock in a significant share of returning corporate events and meetings.

Why it matters: There’s a lot of money to be made — with a lot of people itching to travel — after the sector lost $97 billion in spending last year, according to a new Tourism Economics analysis by the U.S. Travel Association.

What’s happening: Concerns are still lingering around conferences and big business events, despite rising vaccination rates and falling case numbers nationwide.

  • Leisure travel will reach 99% of its pre-pandemic peak by 2022, the analysis shows, but business travel isn’t expected to fully recover until 2024 at the earliest.
  • On a conference call Tuesday, travel industry leaders blamed America’s patchwork of restrictions and reopening plans for that lag.
  • “Anywhere that’s been open longer is benefitting from more travel,” said Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton.

How it’s playing in Tampa: Five of the 15 events scheduled at the Tampa Convention Center between June and October are moving from other locations, reports the Business Observer of Florida.

  • Those include the National Conference of Legislators (from Chicago), the American Academy of Dermatology (from New York) and the Teen Action Summit (from Washington, D.C.).

The bottom line: Those five events are expected to bring an additional $8.6 million in economic impact to the area from 10,600 visitors and 24,254 room nights, according to convention center figures.

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