International Travel Back at SRQ, Minus Air Canada

Todays News

Image courtesy SRQ airport.

The return of international travel to the U.S. has delivered a bump at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, said Rick Piccolo, president of the airport authority. But it’s a little early to quantify after just a week. “It’s hard to measure and Air Canada isn’t back yet,” he noted.

Local tourism officials welcomed the expiration of an international travel restriction put in place early in the COVID-19 pandemic. “In the past, international visitation was just under 10% of our total,” said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota. But even that undersells the value of overseas travelers to the local hospitality industry. Haley said, as those visitors bring in outside money to the economy and blow through it. “They tend to stay longer and spend more,” Haley said.

While most of the restrictions on businesses in the U.S. have lifted, with Florida dropping its state restrictions sooner than most large states, the economy has recovered here and the airport has seem explosive growth in traffic. The restrictions on overseas travel lasted longer than nearly any other pandemic-related regulation.

But will still likely take until next year to restore all global traffic to the airport, Piccolo said. Air Canada won’t restore its flights to SRQ airport until fall of 2022. Initially, the airline was supposed to start flying here within a few months, but logistical challenges in Canada made that impossible.

“They were originally scheduled to come back in February but customs and borders still isn’t staffing adequately in Toronto,” he said.

Before international travel ground to a halt, about 50,000 passengers through SRQ airport originated in Canada, a significant portion of international visitors. But for the airport, a boost in domestic flights has more than made up for a delay in the return of travelers from Canada  — or from anywhere outside the U.S.

“Traffic is up 150% over last year, which was a COVID year but our numbers during COVID didn’t go down,” he said. “Growth at SRQ has been phenomenal.”

Image courtesy SRQ airport.

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