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Tampa Bay is out 'hundreds of millions' in lost revenue dollars from canceled events

Local tourism leaders say few other industries were hit this hard, this fast.

TAMPA, Fla. — Major events like March Madness and WrestleMania were supposed to be happening in Tampa before the safer at home order was put in place in March.

Experts say once things shut down because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Tampa Bay started struggling.

“We have lost in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Santiago Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “It has been the most impacted industry in the world and the quickest hit industry in the world.”

Corrada says once hotels and the Tampa Convention Center shut their doors, the city and county started losing money.

“Think about that. Eighty-five percent of your pocket money just fell out,” said Corrada, referencing last month’s hotel revenue for Hillsborough County.

Since the coronavirus outbreak started, those hotels lost a major chunk of their earnings. Hotel revenue was down by about 50 percent in March and dropped off even more to 85 percent in April.   

Things are starting to gradually improve, Corrada said, but revenue is still down by about 75 percent so far in May.

“I think we are well-positioned for a comeback,” Corrada said. “We have events that are starting to realize we're on the other side of the COVID virus.”

Una Garvey, director of the Tampa Convention Center says they’re on track to open their doors in two weeks. Each set up will be different, but everyone will get a temperature check and wrist band before they’re allowed to enter.

The first event on the schedule is a city council meeting, then a volleyball tournament that should bring in hundreds of people.

“Usually for this tournament, we only use the east hall,” Garvey said. “But for this event were using the whole 200,000 square feet so we can really spread it out.”

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