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Florida is open & tourists are back, but not everyone is following the rules

Tampa Bay hotels have seen occupancy levels that compare to pre-pandemic times.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Visitors are back in Tampa Bay. Hotel occupancy is back up after record-low rates during the start of the pandemic.

"By April, it was down to 20 percent. So, never has that ever happened in Pinellas County. I mean for a month, that's the average for a month," said Steve Hayes, the CEO of Visit St. Pete Clearwater.  

Now, hotel occupancy is back up to pre-pandemic levels, and even beating some new records. 

"This year what we saw in March and April, the occupancy numbers going up into the high 80s for both of those months. In fact, the number of days where we were over 90 percent exceeded what we'd had historically."

Visitors who missed out last year, are ready to return, like Allie Lubertazzi. She has a St. Pete bachelorette trip booked for June. 

RELATED: How are Tampa Bay's summer camp programs handling COVID-19 safety guidelines?

"I'd say around like March is when we were like, okay, like, let's rebook it, it's not going to get canceled. Everything's opening back up. Looks like it's safe to travel now, and everyone's traveling everywhere. So we might as well join in."

And it's not just the beaches drawing in visitors. Busch Gardens was packed a day after the park lifted masks mandates for vaccinated visitors.

Visitors like Nydia Alvarado were glad to see the update to masks 

"I think it should be your preference," she said.

Alvarado was planning to skip the mask, even though she is not vaccinated. 

"I have 12 children. So if I didn't have any issues with having 12 children, I don't think [coronavirus] is gonna kill me. So I think I'm good," Alvarado said.

She wasn't the only visitor willing to skip the mask without being vaccinated. Austan Cheever also told us that she was not vaccinated and planned to go without a mask.

"I don't see anyone else wearing a mask. So I just wasn't going to."

It's not everyone, though. We did find some following the rules. Lubertazzi and the eight friends going on this trip are all either currently vaccinated, or will be by the trip.

RELATED: CDC director says mask turnaround based solely on science

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