Tourists, some masked and some not, walk along the boardwalk in Daytona Beach. Even as coronavirus cases spike in Florida, visitors continue to head for the state, leaving tourism officials to strike a balance between promotion and public safety. David Tucker / News-Journal

FL - Florida Tourism Struggles to Balance Commerce, Safety in Era of Coronavirus

Even as Florida has become a hotbed for the coronavirus pandemic, the Sunshine State remains a favored tourist destination, a scenario that both tourism and medical experts agree could contribute to additional spread without consistent adherence to public health guidelines.

Even in a pandemic, Florida still attracts tourists.

Even as the state has become a hotbed for the novel coronavirus, it remains a favored destination, a scenario that tourism and medical experts agree could result in more spread without consistent adherence to public health guidelines.

According to data from travel website, Florida was the site’s most popular destination from April to July, generating a 21% “click-out” rate of users who clicked on trip deals that sent them to outside travel booking sites.

Although the state has seen a 24% decline in trivago’s website traffic since the recent spike in cases, the state still tops the site compared with competing destinations including California (9%); Nevada (7%); Texas (7%); South Carolina (6%); Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia (at 3% each).

Ordinarily, Florida’s higher numbers would be nothing but good news. But in the “new normal” of the coronavirus era, the economic necessities of tourism must be balanced with larger issues of public health, said Scott Smith, a hospitality professor and director of graduate studies at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. The state’s attraction to tourists also makes it more challenging to control the spread of coronavirus, especially at the time when the number of people in the state who have contracted the virus has skyrocketed.

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Read also Tourism on Pause, Key West Florida Weekly, July 23, 2020.