Hotels Fully Welcoming Visitors, but Vacation rentals remain off limits in Florida

Updated: May. 13, 2020 at 7:28 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - We’ve had picture-perfect weather lately, but not everyone has been able to enjoy the sunshine on the Suncoast. Vacation rentals are still banned from welcoming visitors as the Coronavirus pandemic continues.

“We had more than $3 million dollars in reservations canceled from Mid-March to today,” Steve Cavanaugh, Owner of Tropical Sands Accommodations, tells us.

Back in March, Governor DeSantis first issued an executive order prohibiting rentals. Since then, he’s extended it twice.

The March 27 order said “many cases of COVID-19 in Florida have resulted from individuals coming into the state of Florida from international travel and other states, posing great risk to Florida residents” and added that “vacation rentals and third-party platforms advertising vacation rentals in Florida present attractive lodging destinations for individuals coming into Florida.”

The order required the suspension of vacation rentals of homes and condominiums. However, It did not apply to other short-term rentals like hotels, inns and resorts.

"I really struggle with people being allowed in a motel, hotel, timeshare or resort, and not being allowed in a vacation rental. They all run together very similarly, and if anything, vacation rentals would be safer for people to be at. You can actually isolate yourself from other people much more easily,” expressed Cavanaugh.

This controversy has caused lawsuit to make their way through the courts, with property owners demanding the governor rescind the ban on vacation rentals during the pandemic. All of this, of course, is making the livelihood of many on the Suncoast – especially in Siesta Key and Anna Maria Island - nearly impossible during these difficult times.

“Forty percent of the tourist-tax revenue comes from vacation rentals. It’s a big, big piece of our picture. It’s always been very strong for us. Obviously hotels have grown, but it is still a big piece of our business,” explained Virginia Haley, President of Visit Sarasota County.

Plus, It’s very hard to even hope for the future, because no set date of when this executive order ends has been put in place.

“We’re not doing traditional marketing until the Governor has eased those restrictions,” said Haley.

“We’re just trying to keep in communication with all those cancellations, and let them know that when we finally do open up and are allowed, that we are happy to have them back,” Cavanaugh explained.

Many are hoping that this restriction will be lifted at the end of this month, but Governor DeSantis has yet to say if it will continue through Phase Two of reopening Florida.

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