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Collier County welcomed about 200,000 fewer visitors in 2023 than 2022, according to a study presented to the Tourism Development Council on Feb. 20 by Downs & St. Germain market research firm. 

The $2.6 billion brought to the county by more than 2.7 million visitors in 2023 represented a $200 million decrease from 2022, when 2.9 million tourists spent time in the county and created $2.8 billion in economic impact.  

Despite serving fewer visitors last year, Collier experienced a 24% year-over-year increase in December 2023 with 247,000 tourists. The county was recovering from Hurricane Ian in December 2022, attributing to the jump in numbers at the end of 2023.  

Collier County tourism numbers for December 2023Another spike in numbers was seen in European visitors, with 15% of the visitors being international in December 2023 compared to only 9% in December 2022. The international visitor count is slowly making its way back to pre-pandemic trends. In December 2019, 20% of visitors were international.  

“With Europe, we’re expecting to almost get all the way back in 2024 or 2025 based upon the different research that we’ve read,” Downs & St. Germain President Joseph St. Germain said.  

Although visitation in December was up almost 25%, direct spending was increased just 9%. St. Germain said it could be because potential visitors lacking the same amount savings for trips as they had right after the pandemic.  

St. Germain said the county should expect 2024 to be similar or maybe even less busy than 2023 due to it being an election year.  

“As we look at 2024, that may be a good year from the trends we’re seeing,” St. Germain said. “Hopefully international comes back and that really helps when it comes to economic impact, but every time it’s an election year we tend to see little bumps down in travel.”  

At the meeting, the tourism council approved funds for efforts to increase tourism, including the use of $10,000 to support the upcoming Trilogy Lacrosse event at Paradise Coast Sports Complex in March. The event is anticipated to bring 700 participants from outside the area and have a direct economic impact of about $1.6 million. 

The board additionally approved renewing the one-year agreement with German operator DiaMonde e.K. for $180,000 to promote the Southwest Florida market in Germany. The Stuttgart-based marketing consultant worked with local hotels to book almost 16,000 room nights in Collier County in 2023 and expects to reach 19,000 in 2024.  

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