TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Tampa Bay area was the country’s most popular travel destination this year, according to a new report from Forbes.

Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, Florida remained open to travelers who sought a change of environment amid local lockdown restrictions.

The report used data from hospitality analytics firm STR to find Tampa and St. Petersburg had the highest average hotel occupancy rate between January and November of any of the top 25 U.S. travel markets.

Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada told Forbes that the state “never really shut things down,” which helped maintain the community’s efforts to promote itself as a warm location with safe, open-air activities.

Tampa Bay even topped the typically more traveled-to areas of Orlando and Miami, which had 41.8% and 46.2% hotel occupancy in 2020, respectively.

After reaching a low point of approximately 22% occupancy in April, occupancy has recovered slowly in Tampa Bay each month. It’s now at 51% – not terribly far from its 72.6% occupancy last year.

While the industry is better off in Tampa Bay than it is in other places, it may take years for the hospitality industry to recover, the report says.

“STR predicted in August that it won’t be until 2023 or 2024 that the industry fully rebounds.”