HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County officials say the number of international travelers has almost doubled within one year.

According to the Hillsborough County Economic Development Department, the annual change in airport activity for international passengers jumped 98 percent from January 2022 compared to January 2023.

It’s a stark contrast to airport activity for domestic passengers with only a 15 percent annual change.

“There’s a lot of things we recognize here that we found in Europe,” said Jessie Rackley.  “We love to stay and we’d love to retire here, so we’ll see.”

There has been a significant surge in international travel since the U.S. lifted its requirement for negative COVID tests last June. 

“We experienced Italy and Europe during COVID in a completely different way than Florida,” said Rackley.  “So it was really fun to come here and finally be able to breathe.”

Travel agents have also said that Tampa is still considered an affordable place to visit.

“We’re still at the point where it’s not too expensive to stay here,” said Chelsea Rabeiro, founder of Chelax Adventures.

“Tampa is such a good prime location to see everything and do everything,” said Rabeiro.  “You have Disney within an hour or so. Tampa is a city that’s thriving with good things to do.”

Tampa International Airport tripled the amount of non-stop flights to international destinations over the last 12 years and there’s an ongoing effort to encourage airlines to add more.