MIAMI (AP) — Expect crowded airports and long waits for car services if you’re traveling to Florida for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. And good luck finding a rental car.
Miami International Airport is expecting an average of 110,000 travelers each day, which makes Memorial Day weekend the busiest since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020.
And the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau is anticipating hotel occupancy levels to surge above pre-pandemic levels, the agency’s CEO Rolando Aedo told the Miami Herald. The visitors bureau projects county-wide hotel occupancy to be as much as 8% higher on Saturday than it was on the same day in 2019.
“We’ve gone through so many crises as a destination, and the trend has been fairly consistent,” said Aedo. “We tend to outpace other destinations in recovery.”
But the crowds aren’t just heading to South Florida. The Orlando area is also booming with travelers as the major theme parks have loosened some of the COVID-19 restrictions in place since they reopened last summer.
“Most areas in Florida, they’re seeing high demand and we’re definitely expecting sell out areas in Orlando, Tampa area, St. Pete area,” Jonathan Weinberg, the CEO and founder of AutoSlash.com, told Spectrum News 13 in Orlando.
That’s because the pandemic and chip shortages have made rental cars scarcer, driving up prices dramatically and causing long waits as people start traveling again. Rental companies sold off many of their vehicles during the pandemic, and have had trouble getting new cars because auto companies have diverted vehicles away from fleet buyers to more profitable sales to consumers. The higher demand has sent some rental companies to the used car market to find vehicles.
The holiday weekend arrives as Florida’s number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 are declining. The state added 2,338 coronavirus cases on Thursday, rising the cumulative total to 2,318,480. Also, the state reported that through Wednesday 10,169,597 people — or about 48% — of Floridians have received at least one vaccination shot, including 8,139,018, or 38%, who have completed their shot regimens.