International travelers eye Central Florida as US travel restrictions ease in November

White House announced Friday that the U.S. would open its borders to fully vaccinated, international travelers Nov. 8

The White House announced Friday that the U.S. would open its borders to fully vaccinated, international travelers on Nov. 8.

The announcement prompted a deluge of calls and emails to Go Travel in Longwood.

“It’s more than we see normally because everyone is reacting,” said Bob Cook, the director of sales at Go Travel. “It’s about time — it’s about time that it happened.”

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority also expects a rush of business.

“We view pent-up travel demand as a global phenomenon. We are eagerly anticipating the return of transatlantic air service in the coming weeks,” CEO of GOAA Phil Brown said in a statement.

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Orlando International Airport has already received notice from several international carriers that they intend to resume flights to the airport in November, according to a news release. Additional guidance on the relaxed rules are expected on Oct. 25.

According to Visit Orlando, international tourists contribute $6 billion annual to Central Florida’s economy.

The news comes just two days after the U.S. announced it will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel in November.

Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic. The new rules, announced Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the U.S., like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.

Tourism leaders in Central Florida said it’s good news.

“We’re excited to have travel back, especially for the holiday season,” said Denise Spiegel, of Visit Orlando.

Spiegel said even though our area may not fully recover until 2023, more tourists mean more money.

“Pre-pandemic international visitors spent more than $6 billion in Central Florida, so we are excited for that recovery,” Spiegel said.

The Orange County comptroller’s office said the August tourism tax collection was more than $16 million dollars. That’s down $3.5 million from August of 2019, though up 184% from August of 2020.

Visit Orlando said it will have ad campaigns running this fall in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Mexico promoting travel to Central Florida.

“We have already started marketing in our international market to get Orlando top of mind. We have a campaign running so we’re really excited,” Spiegel said.


About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.