The coronavirus crisis has devastated Florida’s tourism industry, a new study shows.
On Friday, Destinations Florida, which defines itself as the “unifying voice representing Florida’s destination marketing organizations and strives to increase the effectiveness of local tourism promotion organizations’ efforts,” released some of its findings from a study looking at how coronavirus has hit the Sunshine State.
“The study outlined significant drops in hotel occupancy rates, drops in hotel bookings, revenue losses and employee layoffs,” Destinations Florida noted.
These included 99 percent of hotel, vacation rental agencies and bed and breakfasts having drops in bookings 30 days out and 94 percent of them with bookings 60 days out. In March 2019, hotel occupancy in Florida was 82 percent. In March 2020, hotel occupancy stood at 23 percent. Almost every tourism business in Florida–97 percent–saw a loss of revenue and profits due to coronavirus while one in three has already let employees go.
The results of the study were compiled from a total of 995 completed surveys from industry partners in 37 counties. The majority of respondents were small tourism-reliant businesses with fewer than 10 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenues. The study was conducted by Downs & St. Germain Research, which donated its time and expertise to this project.
Robert Skrob, the executive director of Destinations Florida, said the Sunshine State will have work to do once the crisis has passed.
“While the numbers may seem bleak at the moment, Florida’s tourism industry can and will rebound provided we are able to successfully promote our state and local destinations to potential visitors,” said Skrob on Friday. “Once the threat of COVID-19 has abated, we will need Visit Florida, local tourism promotion organizations and local tourism taxes now more than ever to let potential visitors know that Florida is open for business. A return to a healthy, vibrant tourism industry also means jobs and revenue returned to the state.”
“Florida needs visitor-generated sales tax revenue to maintain its current tax structure, keep taxes low for residents, and to continue to offer existing programs and services. Funding Visit Florida and protecting the current uses of local tourism taxes will help reinvigorate Florida’s and local economies,” Destinations Florida insisted.