SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Tourism has taken a huge hit in Florida because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, ahead of this holiday weekend, tourism leaders are hopeful that residents and visitors can go out and enjoy safely.
Just yesterday, Governor DeSantis announced a new initiative encouraging travel throughout the state. He says not only will this help people feel comfortable being out again, but it can bring thousands of hospitality jobs back to the Florida and the Suncoast.
“We’re going to continue to see this pattern of Floridians exploring their own state. We are lucky enough to live in a vacation destination, and there is so much that this state has to offer,” Virginia Haley, the President & CEO of Visit Sarasota County, tells us.
Haley says while we have had an economic impact locally, because of our location and beach destinations, we have been able to stay afloat and keep visitors coming, but it’s primarily on the weekends.
“We really need to stabilize things, so people can go back to earning a wage that can support their families,” Haley expressed.
However, based off of the recent tourism numbers, the Suncoast is looking bright again.
“When there’s a comfort level, like with cases going down, consumer confidence goes up. What we’ve seen is that every time cases are going down, tourism goes up. We had a great June, and we just found out that our tax collections in July were ahead of July of 2019, and as we sit here year to date, we are only 10% down of our tourism tax collection. It’s a great place to be,” said Elliott Falcione, the Executive Director for the Bradenton Area Convention And Visitors Bureau.
Falcione tells us almost every vacation rental property on Anna Maria Island and Bradenton Beach are sold out for this weekend. Plus, hotels and condos in Sarasota County are seeing that same trend.
“That certainly helps, not only are the hotels and our vacation rentals, but it will drive a lot of traffic to our restaurants and small businesses. This is very encouraging. I do think we are moving forward, and Labor Day will be a strong weekend for our businesses,” Heather Kasten, the President & CEO of the Sarasota Area Chamber Of Commerce, said.
Tourism leaders say as part of their new marketing campaign, they’re having businesses be transparent about what safety measures they have in place so that visitors feel comfortable coming to vacation on the Suncoast.