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Tourism industry hit hard by pandemic

Posted at 9:03 PM, May 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-17 16:21:15-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fl. (WTXL) — The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on Florida's businesses that depend on tourism dollars. "In 17 years, this is probably the worst two months that we've had."

That includes Tracey Cochran's Little English Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast in Tallahassee.

"Boom. Cancellation after cancellation after cancellation," explained Cochran. "For us, it was pretty unprecedented."

Kerri Post, the director of the Leon County Division of Tourism, which is also known as Visit Tallahassee, said, "The largest expenditures of visitors is in accommodations and restaurants, eating out."

Destinations Florida and Downs & St. Germain Research collaborated on an economic impact study. The study shows that profits for the state's tourism businesses were down 83% in mid-April, nearly double where they were at 47% in mid-March. Those drops are being felt not just by businesses but their employees too.

Post said, "There's more than 16,000 people employed in the tourism and hospitality industry here in Tallahassee and Leon County. A lot of those folks in the hotels and restaurants, literally thousands and thousands do not have jobs. They have no income."

The Little English Guesthouse has been without guests for two months, yet Cochran remains hopeful for the future of small businesses. "When we start traveling again, that supporting small businesses, whatever town you happen to be, supporting small businesses are the life of that town."

Cochran also explained while her and her husband have always kept their bed and breakfast clean, they have upped their cleaning protocols, as well as implementing social distancing between guests.

Below is the media release from Destinations Florida:

Study Reveals Negative Economic Impacts of the Pandemic Response Increased Significantly for Florida’s Tourism Industry

Tallahassee, Fla. – According to a study [] released May 5 by Destinations Florida, the negative economic impacts of the pandemic response have increased significantly in the last month for Florida’s tourism industry. Tourism-related businesses continue to see a downward slide in hotel occupancy rates, hotel bookings, profits and employee layoffs from mid-March to mid-April. This study follows a mid-March study that tracked the initial impacts of the pandemic response.

Since March 19, Florida tourism businesses reported:

  • Hotel occupancy dropped to 13% in mid-April, down from 23% in mid-March
  • Average hotels, vacation rental agencies and bed & breakfasts bookings 30 days out dropped to -80% mid-April from -63% in mid-March
  • Average hotels, vacation rental agencies and bed & breakfasts bookings 60 days out dropped to -68% mid-April from -49% in mid-March
  • Profits were down 83% in mid-April, a further drop from 47% in mid-March
  • 45% of responding tourism industry partners had laid off employees; the average laid off 73% of their employees

The study further noted that 72% of respondents have applied for federal stimulus funds while only 17% have received it.

“We knew the numbers for April would look worse than the numbers from March as our state began to institute closures and stricter guidelines as part of its pandemic response. However, hope is on the horizon as Florida begins the measured, phased approach to reopening,” said Robert Skrob, Executive Director of Destinations Florida. “Now, more than ever, we will need the funds collected for tourism promotion through local tourism taxes to promote our destinations to potential visitors. Our local tourism promotion organizations are ready to do their part to bring visitors back to Florida so we can rekindle Florida’s and local economies.”

The results of this second study were compiled from a total of 1,009 completed surveys from industry partners in 36 counties. The majority of respondents were small tourism-reliant businesses with fewer than 10 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenues. The study is a collaboration between Destination Florida and Downs & St. Germain Research, which donated its time and expertise to this project.

In a report [] released earlier this year, Destinations Florida highlighted examples of how state and tourism promotion organizations have helped Florida overcome and recover from threats to the industry including hurricanes, the Zika virus outbreak, red tide, green/blue algae, and oil spills.

Destinations Florida is the statewide association that serves local tourism promotion organizations. It serves as the unifying voice representing Florida’s destination marketing organizations and strives to increase the effectiveness of local tourism promotion organizations’ efforts.