The rapid spread of the coronavirus has emptied stores, restaurants, hotels and other small businesses as people stay away out of fear or the requirement to shelter in place.
Despite the high volume of layoffs, many businesses are left without the means to pay rent, utilities and loans.
The coronavirus pandemic is more than a public health crisis. It has been an economic wrecking ball. But Visit Tampa Bay’s President and CEO Santiago Corrada is confident Tampa will bounce back quicker than most.
“I think where some other cities/destinations might hunker down and let’s wait it out, let’s see,” Santiago said. “Tampa continues the momentum because when you come out you want to be prepared to do well.”
And that’s exactly what Santiago and his teams are doing. He says they have big plans for next year to bring revenue back to the Tampa Bay area.
“We have, that we’ve been involved with, almost 150 events next year,” Santiago said.
Projections account for almost 400,000 room bookings for 2021.
“If all that stays and we don’t lose it it’s going to be a very good year for the hotels,” Santiago said.
That is, if events aren’t canceled. Santiago says we still have some things coming to town between today and Dec. 31, but next year is really what he’s counting on.
“Making sure we can hold onto a lot of [events] will be a game-changer for our hotels,” Santiago said. “If all these things evaporate, then obviously we have an issue, but who can predict that?”
Santiago is optimistic.
“In February we had no idea what was coming our way, right? So, I don’t think you can completely guarantee,” Santiago said. “You plan for it and if you have to modify and be flexible, we are nimble enough.”
But one thing he knows for sure about Tampa Bay, “we always come back a little bit sooner than everybody else,” Santiago said.
“Where maybe some other destinations are lagging a few months behind, we are usually on the front end of recovery.”
He says the goal is to get back to where we were before the pandemic hit.
“We were on record-setting pace for years,” Santiago said. “February, we had the second-best tourism month in our history; where our hotel occupancy was at 87.8% countywide.”
That’s almost 9 out of every 10 rooms in every hotel was occupied in February.
“Then we saw a dramatic drop, half drop in March and a dramatic drop in April,” Santiago said.
But since April, he says we’ve seen steady progress. Now, hotels are getting close to about 50% occupancy.
“If we get back, and I think we will to where we were,” Santiago said. “I think everyone is going to do just fine. it’s just weathering this difficult situation and surviving to fight another day.”
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