COVID-19 Industry Update

January 15, 2020

On Thursday, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater helped launch a year-long, cross-country effort to raise awareness and money for the tourism industry.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, MPI Foundation Executive Director Kevin Kirby and known photographer Chuck Fazio joined VSPC President/CEO Steve Hayes to kick off “Picture the Recovery” from the St. Pete Pier. Fazio, who will be traveling by RV, will be joined by other photojournalists throughout the country as they create photography that will be auctioned off with 50 percent of the proceeds going to the MPI Foundation.

“Chuck is a well-known commodity within the meetings and convention industry,” Hayes said. “For him to shoot destinations and tell the story of what’s happening and the need for recovery goes a long way.”

While St. Pete/Clearwater led major U.S. travel markets in average hotel occupancy rate in 2020, according to hospitality research firm STR, the destination was still down more than $2 billion in total economic impact, $600 million in tourism industry payroll and nearly $15 million in Tourist Development Tax collections in FY20.

U.S. Travel research shows since the beginning of March, the U.S. travel economy has suffered $500 billion in cumulative losses, which equates to losing $1.75 billion a day for more than nine months. As a result, more than $64 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues have been lost.

Below are other pertinent updates.


NEW COVID-19 REGISTRATION PROCESS ANNOUNCED FOR PINELLAS COUNTY

To expedite the COVID-19 vaccination process, the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County and Pinellas County Government partnered to create a new, more robust registration system to manage appointments for those 65 and older. Residents can create an account at PatientPortalFL.com. Once registered, you will get notifications when new appointments are available, which will be when the state releases additional vaccines. With more than 250,000 people over 65 years of age and a limited number of vaccine doses, this process will take time and patience is requested. Here is Pinellas County’s vaccine page that has complete and up-to-date info.


CDC REQUIRING NEGATIVE COVID-19 TESTS FOR INTERNATIONAL VISITORS

Effective Jan. 26, the U.S. will require all international airline passengers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was previously requiring negative tests for those coming from the UK, but the CDC expanded the order. The order requires air passengers get tested within the three days before their flight and provide documentation of the result to the airline. The CDC also recommends travelers get tested again three to five days after their arrival and stay home for one week after their trip.


COPA RESUMES NONSTOP SERVICE FROM PANAMA TO TPA

On Jan. 8, Copa Airlines resumed nonstop service from Panama City, Panama, operating twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays. The last flight between Tampa and Panama City departed on March 22, 2020, just before COVID restrictions halted international travel. The route, which launched in December 2013 and expanded to daily service in 2018, gives access to 21 destinations in 12 countries across Central and South America.


NORWEGIAN CUTS TRANSATLANTIC LONG-HAUL ROUTES, INCLUDING TPA

Norwegian Air Shuttle announced Thursday that it will no longer fly long-haul routes, even after the pandemic, bringing an end to its low-cost, long-haul vision and the loss of the non-stop Tampa International Airport-London Gatwick flight that launched in 2018. With its shift to a short-haul European network, the airline is cutting 2,150 jobs in total. Before COVID, Norwegian was operating dozens of transatlantic flights into Orlando and south Florida.


VISIT FLORIDA INCREASES ITS RETURN ON INVESTMENT

According to a recent analysis published by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic Data Research, Visit Florida has increased its return on investment to $3.27 in tax revenue for every dollar spent. That is up from $2.15 in 2018. The report estimates Visit Florida helped generate more than $744 million in state revenue from 2016-2019.


BUSINESSES STILL ENCOURAGED TO JOIN RISE TO SHINE CAMPAIGN

VSPC’s Rise to Shine campaign continues growing with participation from hundreds of businesses across the destination and we’re still welcoming any type of business located in Pinellas County to join the free program. SIGN UP here to receive posters, decals, buttons, masks and the digital toolkit. Reminder, the countywide face covering ordinance remains in effect.

We remind our many partners to continue being vigilant with the county’s local mask mandate because in order to shine we first must rise.


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