SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The tourism industry has been hit hard all around the world due to COVID-19. Especially here in the sunshine state where visitors are what drive our economy. Things are starting to pick up again as our beaches, restaurants and shops are now open, but officials say they still expect tourism to be affected for a while – mainly when it comes to travel and flying for our out-of-state visitors.
“We don’t think it’ll bounce back to where it was over night. It’s going to take a little bit of time,” Mark Stuckey, the Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff or the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, explained.
As we slowly start to open up the economy, there are still fewer flights and some travel restrictions still put in place throughout the nation.
Back in March, the U.S. State Department told Americans to avoid all International travel – that advisory is still in effect today.
"We don’t have any international flights to Europe, but we do have Canadian flights. Hopefully Canadian flights are back by next winter season,” said Stuckey.
Those Canadian flights run from October through April. However, when many can finally take a vacation, it won’t be what they’re expecting or even close to how things used to be as warnings will be displayed and other safety measures are put in place.
"The name of the game for us is going to be slow and steady, and to make sure that everything we are doing is thoughtful and what’s best for the residents and our beloved visitors,” Erin Duggan, Vice President of Visit Sarasota County, told us.
With regulations changing weekly, Visit Sarasota County says they are putting all their efforts towards supporting our local businesses and attracting those throughout the state.
“We’re going to focus on drive markets, so we’re going to focus on some key markets in Florida. Even more target than just geography, we’re really going to be laser-focused on consumers based on certain behaviors that they’re exhibiting online or with their spending,” said Duggan.
Hotels and businesses are going to have to cater to those visitors that are fearful – while also making sure they can still have a great, safe vacation.
“We’re just going to have to look at what kind of experience people want, and then make sure we’re matching that,” explained Duggan.
One big event that Visit Sarasota County is getting the word out about now is Savor Sarasota where restaurants across the Suncoast are offering specials and deals for the first week of June.