Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

Ever since the further easing of coronavirus restrictions started on June 4 across much of Florida, the state has seen a steady rise in new cases that has alarmed some health authorities -- if not Gov. Ron DeSantis.

New cases are now routinely in the 2,000-to-3,000 range daily, with a new record set on June 20 of 4,028 people testing positive. That represents a positivity rate of 14.3%, compared to a 3.2% rate a month earlier.

But surprisingly, the increase in new cases isn't having much of an impact on travelers' plans to visit Florida, according to three travel agents I spoke with recently.

"We have not really seen any negative effects from our clients or prospective clients," said Greg Antonelle, co-owner of Mickey Travels, a Windermere, Fla.-based Disney specialist with about 200 agents around the country.

Antonelle, who himself is based in New Jersey, said that he thinks the Disney customer is a special breed. "[Clients] trust Disney, and they think Disney is doing everything they can to keep guests safe."

Disney World resorts have been reopening in June ahead of a phased reopening of the parks scheduled to begin July 11.

Antonelle said he's frequently at Disney properties and was at the Disney Springs retail and entertainment area on June 18, the day before we spoke.  He said the crowd at eating and drinking venues was keeping its masks on except when actually eating and drinking. He observed that was a change from when Disney Springs first reopened on May 20.

"Going back a few weeks ago when Disney Springs first opened there was more flexibility," Antonelle said. "People are starting to understand the seriousness of it."

Another agent said the increase in Florida coronavirus cases isn't affecting her clients' behavior, because they weren't going, anyway.

"Every single family, regardless of their place of origin, that was scheduled to travel in June-July have postponed their plans to 2021," said Michelle Allen, owner of Travel Magic in Basking Ridge, N.J.

Allen said her Disney clientele seems to want to wait until the pandemic passes and the full Disney experience -- complete with parades, fireworks and character interaction -- is available.

"I'm hearing a lot of 'If I'm spending the same amount of money for one-third of the experience, it's just not worth it,'" Allen said.

A third perspective comes from Daniel Olsen, COO at Beyond and Back Travel in Melbourne Beach, Fla.

"We're definitely starting to see an uptick in people that are coming to visit our area," said Olsen. People from states and cities where restrictions have been more severe, such as New York, are among those who are coming to Florida, he added.

Olsen said he doesn't see the rising number of new coronavirus cases making a big dent in travel to Florida. What would make a difference, he said, is if the surge forces a shutdown or pull back in Florida's openness to visitors.

"If we end up being forced into a situation where we have to close again, in the long term that's detrimental. We're hoping those competing considerations are balanced by the government," Olsen said.


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