PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — New tourism numbers Thursday show Palm Beach County is recovering at a record pace since the COVID-19 pandemic.
At baggage claim inside Palm Beach International Airport, it was a sight we haven't seen often in two-and-a-half years. Crowds of people waiting after landing in South Florida.
"Everybody is itching to get out at some point. Forget about all the potential issues or problems, we just want to go somewhere," said Nathan Foeller.
Nathan and Laura Foeller are here for four days on a business trip and a chance to escape the cold lingering up in Pennsylvania.
"It's definitely nice to see some sunshine than those three hours we get in the afternoon in April and May," Foeller said.
New numbers from the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council show passengers arriving at PBIA in March of this year was up 64% over March of last year. And bed tax collections for March collected in April were on record pace.
"We came in at $11.4 million for the month and that is about 56% higher than last year's same month," said Glenn Jergensen, the executive director for the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council.
Hotel occupancy was also up more than 11% over last year.
And even with inflation now sitting at 8.3% Jergensen said he's still expecting a solid summer.
"I think people will change their plans in maybe their length of stay. If they were going to stay two weeks maybe they'll decide 10 days is enough," Jergensen said.
Jergensen said hotel rates may come down a bit and expects the summer drive market to kick in.
Overall, good news for Palm Beach County tourism.
"It just feels good to be back to some sort of normal," Laura Foeller said.
Groups and meetings are starting to come back to the Convention Center, but Jergensen said one of the biggest challenges right now is getting back to full employment. The county is still down about 4,000 hospitality workers.