Free State of Florida: Sunshine State Sees Highest Level of Domestic Visitation in History

Beachgoers take advantage of the opening of South Beach on June 10, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. Miami-Dade county and the City of Miami opened their beaches today as the area eases restrictions put in place to contain COVID-19. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Miami Beach, FL (Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Florida saw the highest level of domestic visitation to the state ever in 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced on Tuesday. The news serves as a massive statement as Florida forged the way for others to follow in opening their states and allowing people to exercise their choice throughout the pandemic, unlike blue states, which continued to implement lockdowns, restrictions, and heavy-handed vaccine and mask mandates.

Florida saw 117.7 million domestic visitors in 2021 — the same year that far-left officials, leaders, and commentators continued to criticize the governor’s approach to the pandemic as he prioritized liberty over mandates and rules.

According to the governor’s office, tourism in the state in both Q3 and Q4 last year exceeded the same quarter in 2019, prior to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. In Q4 alone, Florida saw 30.9 million visitors — seven percent higher than 2019’s levels. As a result of this historic influx of visitors, hotel revenues reached their highest record ever in 2021, totaling $17.3 billion.

FL tourism screenshot, courtesy of DeSantis office’

Courtesy of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office.

All of these figures confirm what the governor has been saying for months: People are flocking to Florida because it is a free state. Even pro-restriction Democrats have been spotted in the Sunshine State in recent months, escaping extended lockdowns as well as mask and vaccine restrictions throughout the pandemic, despite offering constant criticism of the state. Past Sunshine State vacationers include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D),  Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and CNN’s Don Lemon.

DeSantis’ team has called attention to this trend in recent months, highlighting the blatant hypocrisy of leftists who continue to criticize the state yet shamelessly flock there for refuge:

The figures, however, do not come as a shock to conservative supporters of the popular Florida governor as thousands have made a permanent move to the state over the past two years in the light of the pandemic. History was made in November as Republicans overtook Democrats in registered voters in the state.

“The lockdowns turned them into Republicans because they say ‘I cannot fathom,’ people say, ‘I was a Democrat because of education, and I’m in California and they’re locking my kids out of school. I come to Florida, they [are] in school, people are free, people are happy.’ So I think this whole process has caused some people to reevaluate some of their prior commitments,” DeSantis said in May 2021.

“And if you have a political party that puts the interests of teachers’ unions over the interests of kids being able to just access an education at all, that tells you all you need to know about the modern Democrat party,” he added.

Indeed, Americans have pointed to a variety of reasons for flocking to Florida, including the governor’s commitment to law and order and personal freedom.

“Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions,” DeSantis said during January’s State of the State address, identifying Florida as “America’s liberty outpost.”

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