Every industry has had to make a pivot due to the impact of COVID-19 including the tourism industry. Tampa Bay is known for its world-class attractions, stunning riverfront, eclectic food scene and rich history that bring both leisure and business travelers from around the world— which has been significantly limited due to the virus. On July 30th, panelists Santiago Corrada, Eric Hart, and Veronica Cintron spoke to the Westshore Alliance about the impacts of COVID-19 on different parts of the tourism industry in Tampa Bay, along with analyzing impacts and future projections.
Since the pandemic began, booking trips has been a hesitation for many travelers. Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, brought insightful statistics to the panel that showed the impact COVID-19 has on tourism. Like several other destinations nationwide, Hillsborough County’s year began with strong hotel occupancy, but by mid-March performance was majorly impacted due to mandated closures and safer-at-home orders across the country. Due to decreased visitation, the county’s taxable income, including the tourist development tax built into the visitor’s hotel stay, has significantly decreased.
To help combat this, Visit Tampa Bay launched a recovery advertising campaign to attract drive-market visitors back to the destination. Consequently, the Tampa Bay area became among the highest-searched destinations in Florida. A critical part of that success is communicating safety standards. Ensuring traveler confidence remains a priority and Visit Tampa Bay is actively promoting wide-open spaces, outdoor adventures and information on how attractions and businesses are safeguarding their operations. While the pandemic continues to ebb and flow, the digital campaign has proven to be successful with encouraging ROI and a positive outlook on recovery.
Many have been wondering what the venues and stadiums have been doing during the shutdown, and how they plan to open moving forward. Tampa Sports Authority President and CEO Eric Hart, gave listeners an inside look at what different venues in Tampa Bay have been doing to help keep the community safe, and how they are preparing to re-open. The stadium that is on everyone’s minds, Raymond James Stadium, has cancelled around 50 large events for this summer, including concerts, games, music festivals, and other events. When these events occur, it brings roughly a 50% increase in revenue to surrounding hotels— so without these events, nearby hotels are not getting the spike in revenue that they normally would from attendees of the events. The same problems have been occurring at Amalie Arena, and George M. Steinbrenner Field. The Sports Plex that opened in Tampa has started its’ re-opening with allowing 3,000 people to be hosted. There has been an emphasis on a safe environment, and all visitors must wear masks and comply with the safety guidelines outlined by the Sports Plex. Venues will start to become as touches as possible, with the addition of automatic doors, sinks, and scanners for tickets. They are still planning on the NFL Super Bowl, and throughout the pandemic many projects have taken place at the stadium, including: improved internet and WIFI, new speaker system, and new LED lighting to make the experience even better to viewers.
Air travel has been an area of concern for many travelers, especially with airports having different regulations and guidelines. V.P of Communications at Tampa International Airport, Veronica Cintron, touched upon what Tampa’s airport has been doing to keep passengers safe, and how they hope to be the model that other airports can match to keep consistency in airport health and safety measures. Airports have been drastically impacted by COVID-19, with an astonishing 96% decrease in business at the airport. As an essential business, the airport did not close, but rather stayed on top of safety procedures to create an industry benchmark that Tampa can be proud of. The #TPAready campaign highlights keep components that the airport has implemented to make them the leader of safety, readiness, and economic recovery. Modifications have been made to the airport to reflect the campaign model, including: plastic screens to limit face-to-face exposure, mandating of face coverings for employees, having non-essential employees work-from-home, signage throughout the airport, and increasing sanitation. As the airport continues to make modifications that improve flyer’s safety, they are also continuing in-progress projects. As a way to assist economic recovery, the airport has deferred projects that target capacity, as it is not a concern at this time.
Tourism in Tampa certainly took a hit during the pandemic, and as a second wave takes place, it is still unknown what the outcome will be. However, it is important to know that tourist attractions are keeping traveler’s safety at the forefront, and will continue to do what they can in order to promote visiting to the Tampa Bay area in the safest way possible.
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This post was written by Elevate, Inc.