COVID-19 Industry Update
July 9, 2020
It’s been four months since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Florida and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is dedicated to continuing being a resource for our stakeholders, keeping the community and our visitors safe and trying to responsibly help the tourism industry rebound.
Obviously, the unpredictability of this pandemic has sent the state and our destination down a path none of us wanted. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise while traveler sentiment is regressing, creating a challenging time to market travel.
While VSPC hoped to have a robust recovery marketing campaign live across the state right now, we had to push pause for now. VSPC is continuing some low funnel marketing tactics, including paid search and targeted display advertising, to reach those who are actively searching for Florida beach vacations and a potential trip to St. Pete/Clearwater.
Meanwhile, we’re working closely with both our marketing agencies, BVK and Miles Partnership, to develop a safety and visiting responsibly campaign to reach locals and prospective visitors to ensure adherence to the county’s face covering ordinance (FAQs here) and communicate the right way to experience St. Pete/Clearwater during this time.
We’ll keep you posted on that progress over the next couple weeks.
LATEST CONSUMER SENTIMENT RESEARCH REGRESSING
Destination Analyst’s 17th week of coronavirus travel sentiment survey data unveiled on Tuesday shows continued regression when it comes to traveling. Travelers are expecting COVID-19 to continue getting worse, which is increasingly delaying any plans for travel, among many other findings. A month ago, the situation was much more positive. This week’s complete deck can be found here and Destination Analysts unveils each week’s updated findings at 11 a.m. every Tuesday. It’s one of the many data sources VSPC continues to monitor for decision-making around marketing. Register for the next webinar here.
NEW DRIVE-THROUGH COVID-19 TESTING SITE OPENS IN ST. PETE
A drive-through, community-based COVID-19 testing site opened Wednesday at the Duke Energy Center for the Arts Mahaffey Theater Parking Garage. Testing will be available for individuals regardless of symptoms. The test site is drive-through only. Please limit passengers in the vehicle to those who are being tested, with no more than four people. Individuals being tested will not be permitted to exit their vehicle, please prepare by having a full tank of gas. A prescription is not required, and individuals do not need to be Pinellas County residents to be tested. Testing takes place Tuesday through Saturday each week from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
COMMISSION APPROVES NEW PINELLAS CARES PROGRAM FOR COVID-19 RELIEF
The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a new round of funding to support an even broader range of individuals and local businesses affected by COVID-19. The new Pinellas CARES programs will immediately broaden eligibility for individuals and families who need help with overdue rent, mortgage or utility bills. Anyone who has lost a job or significant income due to COVID-19 can now apply for a maximum of $5,000 in assistance per household during the period starting March 1, 2020. To qualify, applicants now only need to sign an attestation form affirming their loss of income was directly related to COVID-19 and provide documentation of their residency in the county and United States. Those who did not previously qualify for the program or who already got help but need more assistance can reapply by texting COVIDCARES to 898211. More Pinellas CARES program information can be found at: http://cares.pinellas.gov.
NEW ST. PETE PIER OPENS AMID FANFAR
Seven years in the making, the new St. Pete Pier made its debut this week. The 26-acre district gives St. Pete another waterfront park that boasts restaurants, interactive areas for families---including the new Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center---a marketplace of local artisans and vendors, public art and more. In collaboration with the City, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater executed a physically-distanced and small-scale photo and video shoot a couple weeks ago to produce assets used to promote the Pier. Watch VSPC’s promo video here.
PSTA BUS RAPID TRANSIT DUBBED 'SUNRUNNER'
Anchored by the Sunshine City on one end, and a community known as the sunset capital of Florida on the other end, it should be no surprise that the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line connecting the two, will be called the “SunRunner.” The SunRunner will be the first BRT project in Tampa Bay. In addition to the SunRunner name and logo, officials also revealed today that some station designs will incorporate public art by local artist Catherine Woods. The art glass will function as a visual “love letter” to beautiful St Petersburg, utilizing the artist’s images of the flora and fauna, the unique architecture and the landscape. The SunRunner 40-foot buses will also feature artwork by Chad Mize and include an iconic Mr. Sun image.
ST. PETE/CLEARWATER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TRAFFIC REBOUNDING
Just two months after losing 97% of passenger traffic, like airports around the world, St. Pete/Clearwater International Airport saw passenger volume bounce back to more than 141,000 in June, signaling just a 38% drop year-over-year. One of the big reasons is Allegiant Airlines, which operated to its 51 destinations with 159 flights (only 14% less than 2019) during the Fourth of July holiday week. Sun Country Airlines resumes Gulfport/Biloxi service to Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on July 19. Sunwing Airlines service to/from Canada ended earlier this year due to COVID-19, but seasonal service to Halifax is expected to resume in February 2021.
LATIN AMERICA JUNE UPDATE
The Latin America team completed a total of 10 destination live trade webinars, training over 670 clients in the month of June with a focus in the Brazilian and Argentinean markets. These webinars were conducted with travel agents, tour and receptive operators with Agaxtur Operadora, Aero Tur Tour Operator, Bancorbrás Tour Operator, Personal RGE Receptive Operator, All Seasons Tour Operator and ABAV Association of Brazilian Travel Agencies. Some of these initiatives were in partnership with Visit Florida, Florida Gulf Coast DMO’s and American Airlines in Brazil.
DISNEY WORLD REOPENING SATURDAY
Walt Disney World in Orlando is reopening its doors on Saturday with Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom with Epcot and Hollywood Studios opening next Wednesday. Disney World has suspended parades, fireworks and most indoor shows, there won’t be opportunities to hug Mickey Mouse or other characters and it's not using Fingerprint scanners. Disney World is requiring face coverings for all employees and visitors over the age of 2. It’s also taking temperatures, leaving seats empty on rides and has added 4,000 hand-sanitizing stations.
CHICAGO IMPLEMENTS QUARANTINE ORDER
Earlier this week, Chicago joined the list of U.S. places that is requiring a two-week self-quarantine for travelers coming from specific states because of an increase in COVID-19 cases. That order means that anyone from Chicago who visits any of those same destinations would have to self-quarantine upon returning from a trip. Connecticut, New Jersey and New York previously implemented something similar.
EUROPEAN UNION MAKES IT OFFICIAL: NO TRAVEL TO U.S.
When the European Union opened its borders last week, the U.S. was not on the EU’s list of countries its residents could visit. It’s also barring Americans from visiting the EU, too. The U.S. still has its own travel restrictions in place for the EU, too. It’s unclear when any of those restrictions would be lifted. Meanwhile, Canada has extended its own travel ban until July 31 that bars entry to all travelers who are not Canadian citizens.