Last updated: 02:36 PM ET, Thu January 19 2017

Florida's Tourism Industry Still Thriving Despite Tragedies, Zika Virus

Destination & Tourism Donald Wood January 12, 2017

Florida's Tourism Industry Still Thriving Despite Tragedies, Zika Virus

Photo: Miami Beach is one of the many places people thought could be empty because of tourism concerns, but visitor numbers are up. (Photo via Flickr/Humberto Moreno)

A recent report indicates that despite the mass shooting in Orlando and the rise of the Zika virus in the Miami area in 2016, there was only a slight drop in hotel occupancy in Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

The study did not factor in the recent shooting at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport.

According to the New York Times, data analytics company STR released findings of a study which revealed occupancy in Miami was down 2.6 percent through Nov. 2016 compared to the same period the previous year.

In Orlando, occupancy was down 1.3 percent over the same period compared to 2015, and Fort Lauderdale was down 1.8 percent. STR analyst Bobby Bowers said the mass shooting and Zika virus outbreak could have played a role in the decline, but a higher number of hotel rooms in 2016 also played a role in the findings.

Despite the pockets of decline for individual cities, Florida as a whole had a strong tourism year in 2016. Through the first three quarters of the year, 85 million people visited the state, an increase of 5.5 percent from the previous year.

Officials from Visit Florida also expect the total number of tourists arriving in the state to increase for 2017, thanks in part to amusement parks, vast beaches and other unique attractions.

Despite the shootings and Zika virus in Florida which have made headlines over the last year, Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism executive director Rummy Pandit told the New York Times that the impact of the events is usually temporary.

“Florida is appealing for every kind of traveler, so the long-term tourism prospects are strong,” Pandit said in a statement. “You have the beach, gaming, Disney World and a wide range of budget and luxury accommodation options, and while any calamity in a destination tends to have an immediate decline in visitation to that destination, the decline is usually temporary.”

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