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Tampa tourism is up, but demand for services is outpacing supply

Hotels are seeing the strain, as are rideshare companies like Uber. In the end, it affects your wallet.

TAMPA, Fla — Tampa is starting to see tourism get back to near-normal levels. 

Big events have helped the city's tourism industry rebound.

"The Friday and Saturday night of WrestleMania, hotel occupancy was well over 90 percent," explained Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

After hotel occupancy dropped to just 23.2 percent in April of last year, the news is a welcome change. In fact, Tampa is on pace to surpass pre-pandemic levels.

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"We've had, you know, some weekends, some days that were better not than last year because that's silly compared to you know, a pandemic situation, but to our record-setting 2019," Corrada said.

With that return comes a need and a shortage of employees. 

"Demand is outpacing the number of employees because as you know, we lost many, many of our colleagues, horrible situation during the pandemic, and some have moved on to other things. So we've not really recaptured that workforce," Corrada said.

The shortage also impacted car rentals during spring break, with some locations having no cars available at all. Rideshare companies like Uber are seeing similar shortages.

"Now, because demand has returned rapidly, we need more drivers to be able to meet that demand. Some of the issues that we're seeing in the Tampa Bay market in terms of higher wait times, and higher prices are partly due to the fact that the drivers haven't returned to a level where we've seen in years past," explained Javi Correoso, a representative for Uber in Florida. 

Uber says that on average, rides in Tampa Bay are costing between 50 to 60 percent more than normal because of driver shortages. To fix that, Uber is offering incentives to get more drivers on the road with a "$250 million drivers stimulus."

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On average, that means Uber drives in Tampa will make an additional $5 per hour than what they are used to.

"There's a lot of demand in the Florida markets right now, specifically the Tampa Bay market, which is why we're investing in these incentives to recruit new drivers and bring drivers who haven't returned back onto the platform," Correoso said.

Lyft, another ridesharing app that operates in our area, is also offering some incentives to drivers in unspecified amounts.

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