PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – bounce back! Florida tourism industry could recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic faster than any other state in the country, according to a new study just released by Tripadvisor.
The study found that 65% of travelers plan a domestic autumn break, with most planning short trips of 2-5 nights. Both St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach made the top 10 U.S. destinations for fall 2020.
Like so many of us, Luis Rodriguez had to cancel his vacation this year.
“We should be on an Alaska cruise this week and we’re here in Florida instead,” he said.
Rodriguez, who lives in Miami, is visiting Treasure Island for the first time.
“It’s nice, it’s really great here,” he added.
Clyde Smith of Bilmar Beach Resort says travelers are finally sliding back and while some fly to Tampa Bay, many are still opting for shorter and closer vacations.
“I think the visitors feel a little more secure now than they did before during this crisis. I think it’s going to be a tough fall season for us, ”said Smith.
Safety is of course still an important factor.
“As long as the guests follow the rules, it’s great to see them again. Which are most of them. We have seen it get better and better when people understand the protocols, are patient with the protocols, and do the right thing,” added Smith added.
The pandemic is also forcing tourism companies to get creative. Some Pinellas County resorts, like Tradewinds in St. Pete Beach, even hire tutors to work with families who have kids on vacation but are learning virtually.
Smith also says they updated their entire WiFi internet system at the Bilmar so families can work and study right from their hotel room with a view of the beach.
“Once the school day is over, they can enjoy the amazing beach, sunset or ice cream on the sand,” added Robin Miller of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.
Tripadvisor expects Florida’s tourism industry to recover faster than other parts of the US. One factor is the number of outdoor activities the state offers, such as boating, kayaking, hiking, and enjoying the beach.
This is encouraging to gift shop owner Dave Horne who owns Captain Dave’s Trading Company on Treasure Island.
“It’s hopeful. It really is. You have to do the best you can and pray,” he said.
Horne says sales are still well below last year’s, but he hopes tourists will come back and locals will support small businesses.
“When you shop at a small business, it has an impact on someone’s life and family. I try to fill my shop with items from local vendors and artists,” he said.
Tripadvisor also found that more travelers are looking to book later. Many book less than a week in advance.
The other top US destinations for Fall 2020 besides St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach are:
- Key Largo, Florida
- Key West, Florida
- Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Sedona, Arizona
- Scottsdale, Arizona
- San Diego, California
- Savannah, Georgia