Pinellas becomes first Tampa Bay county to reopen vacation reservations

By The Numbers

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Pinellas County now has approval for short-term rentals to resume accepting reservations for vacation rentals, and state and local officials are hoping it will help bolster a state economy struggling with record revenue losses in the wake of COVID-19.

To gain the approval, County Administrator Barry Burton submitted a letter to the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulations, noting that tourism in Pinellas County has been an economic driver, employing more than 100,000 jobs and garnering more than $9 billion to the economy in 2019.

Tourism and hospitality officials make up 1.5 million employees in Florida’s workforce. That makes it the fourth-largest industry by employment in the state.

Collectively, Pinellas County has more than 2,300 lodging accounts from hotels, rentals and bed and breakfasts with a total of 95,736 units to fill, according to the Department of Business and Professional Regulations.

Data from Visit St. Pete-Clearwater shows that last December – prior to the coronavirus impacts hitting the industry – tourism in the area was up 3.9 percent from Dec. of 2018.

Last year, Pinellas County collected a record of $63.1 million in bed tax revenue for the fiscal year, beating the 2018 collections by 5.63 percent.

While they know this year won’t compare because of losses during some of the busiest months for the industry, hospitality professionals are happy to get the green light in time for some of the season’s holidays.

“We are excited that the governor has approved these county plans prior to the long memorial day weekend,” Executive Director Denis Hanks from the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association said. “Many families have booked stays months in advance. This is a tremendous help to the vacation rental owners and managers that have been shut down for nearly two months.”

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