TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It won’t be long until schools are out for spring break in Tampa Bay. But with a growing list of confirmed cases of coronavirus, some are concerned the area could see a dramatic decline in tourism.
8 On Your Side reached out to tourism agencies on both the state and local levels to see how the industry has fared up until this point and what Floridians can expect in regards to tourists in the coming weeks.
Through data collected by hotel industry analyst STR Inc., Visit Tampa Bay says it has seen a steady increase in tourism occupancy since December of 2019. Preliminary data for February 2020 shows numbers have jumped from 71 percent and $59.5 million in total revenue to 87.9 percent occupancy and 94.8 million in revenue.
During a press conference in Tampa on Monday, Florida Surgeon General Scott A. Rivkees said people should, “go about your normal business.”
Visit Tampa Bay officials don’t expect the upward trend to change with the spread of coronavirus in Hillsborough County.
“We urge visitors and residents to follow the recommendations of health professionals when it comes to preventing the spread of this and other viruses,” Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago C. Corrada said in a statement.
Across the bridge, Visit St. Pete Clearwater has also seen a 1.59 percent increase in visitors, according to the most recently available data. Pinellas County saw $389,753,999 in tourism spending, while $395,986,491 was spent in the following December.
Visit St. Pete Clearwater spokesperson Mackenzie Comerer says that, while the situation can evolve rapidly, impacts of the coronavirus isn’t a major immediate concern for the local tourism industry.
“At this stage, we’re closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with local health officials, Visit Florida and U.S. Travel,” Comerer said in an email. “All of our visitor data continues to show growth currently and for the near future. Obviously, if the situation changes, travel could be affected but we haven’t seen or heard anything to indicate that will happen.”
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