Writer: Joey Garrand
2 min read April 2021 — Tampa Bay’s tourism and hospitality sectors are returning to normal, and in some cases exceeding past performance. The renewed vigor is surprising and welcomed after a year where these industries came to a complete standstill.
Occupancy rates reached nearly 80% for the month of April 2021, according to Santiago C. Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. The figure was just 8 to 10 percent off from 2019 occupancy levels, and well above the 23.2% nadir marked in April 2020. “Compared to other destinations, we’re doing really well. Right now, in our competitive group, we’re in the No.1 or No. 2 position when you compare us to destinations like Orlando, Charlotte, Nashville, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Louisville and Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale and Tampa are consistently ranked first or second with the best occupancy rates and revenues through the pandemic.”
Corrada went on to explain how this ranking has been reflected in Visit Tampa Bay’s activity: “Between today and November, we have scheduled approximately 25 conventions, events, or meetings with an estimated economic impact between $75 million to $100 million dollars,” he said. He also highlighted that major events in the Tampa Bay region are attracting more guests than they have historically. “Super Bowl weekend this year performed better than the previous Super Bowl we held in terms of hotel occupancy. Hotel occupancy this year was 92%; it was about 89% for the last one, and we have way more hotel rooms than we did then.”
The tremendous success of Tampa Bay’s hospitality and tourism industry over these past few months has been the result of a widespread community effort to make people feel confident and comfortable traveling to the area. “Our marketing changed from the glamorous images of a metropolitan area on the Florida’s West Coast to showcasing safety protocols, that we are a safe destination, and that we are ready for you to come back,” said Corrada. With so much pent-up demand for traveling, there was no need to convince people to travel — only that it is safe to travel.
And people continue to feel safer and safer. “Ever since April of last year, we have seen steady improvement all the way to today,” said Corrada.
However, there are still some pieces missing. “International tourists are still off the table with borders being closed. The cruise industry is also off the table. And even with events, conventions, and meetings, we’re still not seeing 100% attendance because there is a virtual component now. Today, we see 50 to 60% attendance instead of 100.”
Of course, as vaccinations continue to roll out and normalcy returns, Tampa Bay’s tourism and hospitality industries are poised to come out of the pandemic much stronger than other regions. Corrada is optimistic. “The most searched for vacation spot on Google right now is Florida.”
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