Tampa, St. Pete at top of 2020 travel destinations

There’s a bright spot to end 2020 after a hospitality report found this year’s busiest travel destination was Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Tampa Bay’s tourism suffered big blows because of the pandemic, but the area’s bouncing back.

People booked more hotels in Tampa and St. Pete this year than any other top destination in the country. A report of the year's trends from hospitality firm STR found an average of 51% of hotels occupied in the area from January to November. 

Tampa tourism experts expect those numbers to hold in December.

Hotels are just one part of gauging the pulse of tourism. During the pandemic, local leaders pushed out Tampa and St. Pete as safe outdoor places to visit.

Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO Santiago Corrada said he believes that helped out along with Florida’s quick reopening.

"It positions us well because for Forbes to talk about Tampa/St. Pete being the number one travel destination in 2020 even with what’s gone on, I think it’s a feather in our cap and something we need to capitalize and continue to grow," said Corrada.

While tourism leaders are happy to be top of the list, the numbers are nowhere near where they once were before the pandemic.

"We’re still far from where we know we’re number one because we’re still off by 20 percent in occupancy and probably about 40 percent in revenue," said Corrada. "We want to beat where we were before. We’re not worried about anybody else."

Tourism leaders said they hope the upcoming Super Bowl, conventions and shows will keep pushing recovery in the right direction.

Corrada said he thinks the vaccine rollout will help give people even more confidence to travel in 2021.