Hospitality Stays Positive In Face of Pandemic Hit

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY JUL 6, 2020

The plan was for the Independence Day weekend to be a boon for Sarasota tourism in 2020.

“This year it would have been our biggest,” said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. “The Sarasota Grand Prix races would have been last weekend instead of falling on the 4th. So it would have been a 10-day holiday. Such is life.”

Instead the industry deals with one of its greatest obstacles in decades. The COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic impact of travel, hotels and rentals, many of which closed completely for much of the spring while the state went into lockdown.

That contributed to the total Tourist Development Tax revenue collected in Sarasota County dropping from almost $4.3 million in March 2019 to under $2.6 million this year, a decline of almost $1.7 million. April, a slower month already, saw an even sharper decline. Revenue in April 2019 came in at more than $2.2 million, but dropped to $257,489, a nearly 89% decline.

Florida began a phased reopening in May, and tourist development tax reports are not yet available to show how much the industry rebounded. Moreover, a statewide surge in cases since reopening has generated negative attention, and forced five South Florida counties to shut down beaches for a second time this year amid concerns about holiday weekend crowds,

But in Sarasota and Manatee counties, beaches and businesses remained open through the Fourth of July this year. And despite nixing a major event that fills hotels, Haley said hospitality businesses have been positive about traffic this weekend.

“Reports are that the Fourth was still very good this year,” she said.

As for the Grand Prix, organizers next year plan to hold races June 25-27, again hopefully delivering a 10-day holiday to the Sarasota tourism industry.

Photo courtesy Visit Sarasota County: Siesta Key Beach.

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