By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida tourism officials are predicting it will be a summer like no other.

For the last 14 months, the area’s economic engine has been crippled by the pandemic. Recently, however, there has been a comeback. That’s according to two people responsible for promoting South Florida tourism – Bill Talbert, President & CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Stacy Ritter, President and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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“To think we are doing this well, back at 2019 levels without cruises, without international travel, without events, tells me we have a great future in hospitality in Miami and Miami Beach,” said Talbert.

“There is a great pent-up demand here. People do want to get out. That’s why we are anticipating a greater than traditional summer,” said Ritter.

With international travel still problematic, American travelers from across the county are checking into South Florida hotels and dining in restaurants. Locals are also contributing, renting places on the beach and dining out as restrictions are relaxed.

“We are planning for the drive-in market, some domestic travel, and some fly-in as people are actually getting on airplanes,” said Ritter.

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Air traffic is critical for South Florida tourism. Ninety percent of tourists who choose South Florida arrive through our area airports. While both Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport are busy, they are not back to seasonal numbers but they are getting there. The big hole in the tourism picture is the cruise industry.

“The cruise industry is not traveling yet, they are a big consumer of hotels, particularly in downtown Miami,” said Talbert.

While ships are not sailing yet but there are plans to change that. The return of cruise ship sailing for Port Everglades, possibly later this month, will add to summer tourism numbers which will help.

“We see two million passengers a year and the fact we have not had any has been pretty devastating,” said Ritter.

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Ritter added that while this summer will not be a record-setter, it may be pretty good considering what the tourism industry has gone through.