Illinois Tourism & Travel

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With international travel returning, Hillsborough posts record-setting travel numbers

With international travel returning, Hillsborough posts record-setting travel numbers

The Hillsborough County hotel industry has officially joined the billionaire’s club.

For the first time, the county’s lodging industry finished 2022 with just over $1 billion in taxable revenue. That’s a 43{32bc5e747b31d501df756e0d52c4fc33c2ecc33869222042bcd2be76582ed298} increase over 2021 and more than double the revenue from 2020.

That growth is thanks to a number of factors, according to Santiago Corrada, the President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

“A lot of work was done during the pandemic and the year after the pandemic,” he said.

During that time, Corrada said private investment groups helped to grow Water Street and Midtown. Investments at Tampa International Airport added more international and domestic flights, including the recent addition of a non-stop flight to London through Virgin Atlantic.

Corrada added the evolution of local attractions and the city’s presence on many top 10 lists, including being ranked one of Wallethub’s Top Summer Travel Destinations in 2022, also helped lift Tampa Bay’s visibility globally.

He also said the strong recovery of the tourism industry is a boon for the state.

“There’s a correlation with people staying and then impacting the economy,” Corrada said. “They’re paying sales tax, they’re paying the education tax, they’re going out to eat and supporting restaurants, they’re going out to be entertained, they’re taking transportation.”

While last year’s figures are not yet complete, Corrada said the economic impact for the region was over $7 billion in 2021 and he expects even bigger numbers for 2022.

“So (in 2021), when we have $885 million in lodging, it generates $1.3 billion in food and beverage. It furthers $928 million in recreation and $793 million in transportation,” Corrada said, adding, “what’s really important is that it also generates $426 million in state and local taxes.”

City of Tampa postcard mural on side of red brick building.

Keir Magoulas


Visit Tampa Bay

For the first time, hotels in Hillsborough County have hit $1 billion in annual taxable revenue.

While most of the country is still not back to pre-pandemic numbers according to Florida tourism officials, Corrada said something to keep in mind is that Hillsborough and Tampa do not normally follow national or state trends.

“If we’re not close to being pre-pandemic in Hillsborough County, we’re pretty close,” he said.

Revenue doesn’t seem to be slowing down in 2023 either. As of January 28th, Corrada said revenue for the month was up over 29{32bc5e747b31d501df756e0d52c4fc33c2ecc33869222042bcd2be76582ed298} from 2022.

Steve Hayes, the President and CEO of Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater, spoke last week from a trade show where Florida tourism officials were touting the state to international travelers.

He said Pinellas County hotels hit $1 billion in taxable revenue in 2019, but like elsewhere across the country, the area took a big hit in 2020.

While official figures from 2022 are expected in the coming days, Hayes said they will likely come close to, if not surpass, that $1 billion mark again.

Last week, Visit Florida officials unveiled international travel figures from the final three months of 2022. Those numbers showed the ongoing effects of inflation, increased visa-processing times and COVID-19 vaccine mandates for foreign air travelers coming to the U.S.

In all, Florida had about 7 million international visitors in 2022, up 73{32bc5e747b31d501df756e0d52c4fc33c2ecc33869222042bcd2be76582ed298} from 2021 — but 28{32bc5e747b31d501df756e0d52c4fc33c2ecc33869222042bcd2be76582ed298} below the nearly 10 million in 2019, a new quarterly estimate indicates.

Full fourth-quarter tourism figures will be released in about two weeks.

Additional information from the News Service of Florida was used in this story.