COVID-19 Industry Updates

April 7, 2020

There’s never been a more delicate time to walk the line between effectively staying top of mind as a destination and coming across as out of touch.

With that in mind, we’re still committed to reaching our biggest fans and potential visitors to encourage online shopping, experiencing the destination virtually and contributing to local causes to ensure your business and this beautiful destination are here when the time is right for visiting.

To do so, we need your partnership and collaboration.

If you have something that fits any of the below, please email [email protected] and we’ll do everything we can to help shine a light on it.

  • EGift Cards: Does your company offer eGift cards for people to purchase to help support your business?
  • Virtual experiences: Do you bring your experience or product to life digitally with webcams, Facebook Live, virtual tours or any other creative way? We’re in the digital traveling golden age and will promote your St. Pete/Clearwater virtual experience here.
  • Good deeds: Has your business adapted to a new community need or helped first responders, hospitality workers or anyone else in need? We’re trying to share these stories far and wide, including our global public relations efforts, so please share your effort with us!
  • Live content: Already planning on going live with Facebook or Instagram to showcase your business? Or interested in collaborating for live content on social media? We want to help!

If none of the above applies and you’re unsure of how to execute on any of these items, stay tuned. We’re finalizing a “How to” guide that will give you some specific ideas and help equip you with the tools to do so.

Here are some other items we thought were worth your time today:

  • Destinations Florida, the state DMO association, is moving its Marketing Summit online with free online webinars every Tuesday and Thursday through April with the first---Think Different. Destination Marketing in a Post-Coronavirus World---taking place this week at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 9. No registration required, just click here.
  • TripAdvisor is holding a 2-part discussion for destinations, hoteliers and others in the travel industry beginning at 2 p.m. tomorrow, April 8, and continuing at 2 p.m. the following Wednesday, April 15.
  • The St. Pete/Clearwater Film Commission has rolled out a survey for the local production community to help gauge losses and gather insight for recovery. Here’s the survey.

April 6, 2020

We know during this challenging time, your No. 1 priority is financially supporting your business, your employees and your family. Given that focus, we’ve created a hub of resources to help you navigate these trying times.

Business Resources: This section includes specifics surrounding the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Small Business Association loans and other many others, including:

Employee Resources: This section includes services and financial aid options for tourism industry employees who have been negatively impacted by this event, including:

General Industry Resources: This section provides higher-level resources during this event, including:

  • Brighter Days Ahead Partner Toolkit: An in-depth toolkit with digital assets, including non-branded signature blocks, website ads and video, to provide an umbrella for the destination as we work our way through an unprecedented time.
  • Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund: A fund for Pinellas County artists, arts organizations and creative businesses.

In addition to trying to equip you with all of the necessary and relevant resources, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has rolled out its newest edition of Gulf to Bay Magazine – an award-winning destination magazine published by the Tampa Bay Times

The 112-page, glossy magazine offers locals and potential visitors a resource for dreaming about that next staycation or getaway to St. Pete/Clearwater. And during this time of staying at home, the magazine is mailed around the country for free. Order yours here.

In the magazine, you’ll find “The Best of St. Pete/Clearwater” – honoring winners in 28 categories voted on by thousands of residents and visitors alike, from Best Hotel and Best Restaurant, to Best Dog Hangout and Best Brunch!

Also Monday, St. Pete/Clearwater took over Travelzoo’s social media channels as part of Travelzoo’s “Roam from Home” campaign to help keep the destination top of mind.


April 3, 2020

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the federally funded U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. You can find the details here.

See our breakdown of the program here. 

Questions? Please contact the SBA's Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or your local lender.


April 2, 2020

Responding to Governor Ron DeSantis’ statewide “Stay-at-Home” order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday issued an order closing all non-essential businesses through the end of April, and giving County Administrator authority to order businesses that do not follow CDC guidelines for social distancing to close.

The Board renewed the Local State of Emergency declaration for another 7 days, along with the County’s previous orders pursuant to it. This means the closure of public beaches and beach parking areas is extended through April 10. During the meeting, the Board also gave Chair Pat Gerard and County Administrator Barry A. Burton the ability to continue extending the local state of emergency and associated orders where necessary without having to convene an emergency BCC meeting. The County and state orders go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and will be in effect as long as there is a declared Local State of Emergency.

What it Means

Under the state’s new order, senior citizens and people with significant underlying health conditions must stay home and take all measures to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19. All others can leave home only to obtain essential services or perform essential activities. The Board decided that the best way to implement these requirements and keep the public safe is to require the temporary closure of non-essential businesses and require social distancing compliance by businesses considered essential under the state order. To accomplish that, the County issued an executive order mandating:

  • Retail businesses, operations or organizations not included in the category of essential services or activities listed in the governor’s order must close.
  • All businesses, operations and organizations continuing to operate pursuant to the governor’s order must comply with CDC guidelines for social distancing and hazard mitigation.
  • The County Administrator is empowered to issue orders to close businesses that are not in compliance.

Citizens who do not fall into the high-risk category may still get exercise outdoors, including walking, biking, fishing and swimming, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Pinellas County Parks and Preserves will remain open, except for Sand Key Park, Fort De Soto Park and the education centers at Weedon Island Preserve and Brooker Creek Preserve. Boat ramps will also remain open, including the ramp at Fort De Soto Park. The County is requiring that community pools remain closed.

Individuals not included in the COVID-19 high-risk category can go to:

  • Essential businesses
  • Visit relatives who need help or care
  • Open parks & outdoor recreational areas
  • Golf courses
  • Boat ramps & marinas (boats must stay 50 feet apart per Florida Fish & Wildlife order)

Essential businesses vs. non-essential:

Non-essential businesses must close by midnight tonight. They include any businesses not exempted in the governor’s order.

Essential businesses and services will continue to operate. They include those served by first responders, healthcare workers, law enforcement officers, grocery store employees, agriculture workers, bank employees, gas station and auto repair workers, construction workers, postal workers, those who work in vital infrastructure industries, and those who work in manufacturing facilities that support critical supply chains. Restaurants and food establishments may continue delivery, carry-out and/or curbside service.

Public gatherings, including religious services

These should be limited to essential purposes and must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Groups must contain 10 or fewer people and stay six feet apart, including those gathering in churches and other places of worship.


April 1, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that a statewide stay-at-home order will take effect Friday morning at midnight. Read the complete order here.

The order limits movement of Floridians aside from providing essential services or performing essential activities. DeSantis said the move came after President Donald Trump extended the federal government’s guidelines for social distancing and gathering through April 30.

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners is meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Here are a handful of other updates from Wednesday: 

  • The Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas is working with local restaurants to safely serve seniors in need and help support our local economy during COVID-19. Restaurants have specific criteria to qualify for the program, but complete details can be found here. Interested restaurants can email [email protected].
  • We know navigating the CARES Act is an urgent priority for our many stakeholders. To help, here is a recorded webinar conducted by U.S. Travel, which walks through all of the provisions and outlines which travel industry companies are eligible. U.S. Travel’s CARES Act hub provides a host of easy-to-read resources, including FAQs and an eligibility guide.
  • U.S. Treasury’s newest information regarding the Paycheck Protection Program, which prioritizes those employed by small businesses. Program’s full information can be found here.
  • Amidst the current happenings, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater launched the FY20-21 Elite Event Application on Wednesday. The application is open through April 30.
  • The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber has launched a First Responders Meal Wheel that allows people to donate leading to its member restaurants providing meals to first responders. 
  • In addition, from 3-4:30 p.m. Thursday Feeding Tampa Bay, TradeWinds Island Resorts and the Beaches Chamber are hosting a free food assistance pantry drive for any hospitality staff who has been furloughed or laid off. Anyone in need of food can visit the drive-through Mobile Pantry in the North Parking Lot at TradeWinds.
  • Toolkit with downloadable assets for VSPC’s Brighter Days Ahead Bridge Marketing campaign for use by stakeholders.
  • Reminder, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is updating its industry resources page daily, including a data/research deck on all things related to this event.

March 31, 2020

We can’t begin to understand the great hardship you, your staff and business are going through. Each new closing and word of more furloughs breaks our collective heart. But out of darkness comes light---our powerful St. Pete/Clearwater sunshine that helps make this one of the best destinations in the world.

St. Pete/Clearwater has always been a place of connection. At our core, we’re about bringing people together---making them feel vibrant and alive. But right now, we’re asking everyone to come together by staying apart. Our aim is to always promote safe, responsible travel and, with that in mind, we have decided to pause our existing paid media campaign in favor of a new direction.

We have been working diligently to create a new theme, leveraged alongside continued search efforts, that promotes the optimism and vibrancy of St. Pete/Clearwater and its partners. We are excited to share with you the following:

NEW MESSAGING THEME

As mentioned, we have updated our messaging to keep travelers and our community informed, inspired and engaged under the theme Brighter Days Ahead. Through this messaging we aim to share our commitment to safe travel while remaining optimistic about the future and passionate about all that St. Pete/Clearwater has to offer.

PARTNER TOOLKIT

We have curated a suite of creative assets under this new theme – including digital, social and email graphics – that are available immediately for your use here. You’ll also find key messaging points and content resources, including a link to vspc.info where you’ll have access to COVID-19 related information, local business guides and engaging online activities for your customers.

We encourage you to leverage all the assets available within the Brighter Days Ahead Toolkit and appreciate your partnership in sharing timely, accurate and inspiring information. Additionally, we ask that you include the campaign hashtag – #BrighterDaysAhead – in your social media efforts to demonstrate your support for all St. Pete/Clearwater partners.

We understand why many feel uncertain about the current state of the world. The impact of COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of our lives. But through it all, we remain endlessly optimistic about the future. If we all work together and take the right steps now, the surf, sand and vibrancy of St. Pete/Clearwater will once again provide a welcome respite for everyone.

As always, our primary focus is on keeping our communities and our visitors safe and healthy, so we can all look forward to the infinite brighter days ahead. Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions or ideas on how we can support each other during this time.


March 30, 2020

On Sunday, President Donald Trump said that the federal government’s guidelines for social distancing would be extended until April 30, putting much of the next month on hold.

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he would be signing an executive order urging those in South Florida to stay home through mid-April. It is the first executive order of its kind from DeSantis.

That order comes as Florida’s COVID-19 cases passed 5,000 with more than 60 people dead. As of mid-day Monday, Pinellas County had 126 cases with five deaths.

Here are a handful of other updates/reminders from Monday related to COVID-19:

  • U.S. Travel has completed an easy-to-read CARES Act eligibility guide outlines specifically who qualifies for eac piece of federal assistance.
  • The Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund has been established by Creative Pinellas, the Pinellas Community Foundation and the St. Petersburg Arts Aliiance. The fund is launching with $70,000 in seed funding and grants will provide urgent financial support for Pinellas County artists, arts organizations and creative businesses that face immediate needs. Learn more and/or help contribute to the fund
  • To assist industry professionals whose employment has been negatively impacted, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is now offering its Hospitality and Tourism Management online certification program free of charge. Learn more or register before the April 7 deadline.
  • Reminder, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is updating its industry resources page daily, including a data/research deck on all things related to this event. 
  • Pinellas County continues to collect personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants at two locations. Here’s complete information.
  • Stakeholders, if you’re planning live stream content on social media platforms or are interested in being featured, please let us know at [email protected]

March 27, 2020

On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis ordered a two-week suspension on all vacation rentals in Florida and expanded his travel restrictions to visitors coming into the state.

The vacation rental order allows people to finish current stays but prohibits all new rentals for two weeks. For visitors coming to Florida from Louisiana, DeSantis is requiring a 14-day self-quarantine, similar to what’s in place for visitors from the New York Tri-State area. DeSantis did say that might include checkpoints along I-10, too.

He also emphasized that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be enforcing social distancing on the waterways, too.

Here are a handful of other updates from Friday related to COVID-19:

  • With 995 completed surveys from tourism businesses in 37 counties, Destinations Florida published a report on the recent impact of the pandemic produced by Downs and St. German Research.
  • On Friday, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater supplied 10,000 bags to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to help with take-home meals for patients and hospital staff who can’t go shopping because of COVID-19.
  • Per Pinellas County’s safer-at-home order, which went into effect at noon on Thursday, all businesses must be adhering to the CDC Social Distancing Guidelines for no groups of more than 10 and people remaining at least 6 feet apart. Violation of the requirements is a crime and businesses in violation may be subject to closure. Violations of the requirements can be reported to 727-582-8477.
  • Hillsborough County’s safer-at-home order goes into effect at 10 tonight. Similar to Pinellas’ order, it allows for necessary activities or essential services and does not involve a curfew.
  • Pinellas County continues to collect personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants at three locations through Saturday and two locations starting next week. Here’s complete information.
  • Stakeholders, if you’re planning live stream content on social media platforms or are interested in being featured, please let us know at [email protected]

March 26, 2020

We know that with each passing day, closures continue and difficult staffing conversations are reality. It breaks our heart.
That’s why we’re looking for positivity wherever we can. We’re optimistic that tomorrow we’ll be able to share with you a complete breakdown of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that the House is expected to pass and the President will sign into law.
Every tourism business touched by this crisis will be able to utilize the Act for immediate help and recovery.
For now, here are today’s latest headlines and resources as it relates to Pinellas County’s “Safer at Home” order:

VSPC rolled out a number of new content items for consumers on Thursday with hopes of staying top-of-mind during this work-from-home time, including an hour-long video showcasing the shoreline. The video is designed to bring America’s Best Beaches to people while they can’t get to the beaches. The video has already had thousands of views across social media platforms.

Early next week, VSPC will be rolling out its Brighter Days Ahead bridge marketing campaign with a toolkit for stakeholders to utilize.


March 25, 2020

More information about the "Safer At Home" Order has been shared. For answers to your questions, please review some of the following resources: 


March 25, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to pose a significant health risk to our community. As a result, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday extended its local state of emergency declaration another week and adopted a "Safer At Home" Order for individuals, business owners, and any place of public assembly to slow the spread of the virus. The Order is effective starting Thursday, March 26, at noon and will continue so long as there is a declared local state of emergency in Pinellas.

“It's important for us to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections in Pinellas County while balancing the needs of our community and we are exercising every reasonable power to slow the spread. These actions, with the cooperation of our Pinellas residents and businesses, will help us prevent worse scenarios in the future.” - Commission Chair Pat Gerard

Wednesday afternoon Hillsborough County issued a “safer at home” directive and nightly curfew, restricting residents to their homes from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. starting Friday. On Tuesday, Orange County issued a stay-at-home order that begins Thursday at 11 p.m. 

What the Pinellas County order means

Residents
Pinellas residents are ordered to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines of social distancing (6 feet of separation from others and no group gatherings of more than 10), stay home as much as possible and limit non-essential activity. Residents can still leave their homes to meet essential needs such as food, healthcare, laundry and outdoor recreation.

Essential activities include:

  • Direct care or support of family members
  • Healthcare and medical services
  • Pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities
  • Groceries
  • Meal take-outs from local food establishments (including food banks)
  • Essential work duties that cannot be performed from home
  • Primary or emergency care or direct care support for a family member or relative
  • Banks and related financial institutions
  • Laundry services, laundromats
  • Essential home repairs and maintenance (lawn care, plumbing, roofing, etc.)
  • Outdoor activity while following CDC guidelines (examples include: walking pet, hiking, biking).
  • Veterinarians and pet boarding facilities
  • Gas stations, auto-supply and auto-repair facilities

Places of Assembly
Places that facilitate public assembly, whether indoors or outdoors are ordered to close to the public. This includes, places like public playgrounds, publicly accessible children's play centers, bowling alleys, movies and other theaters, country clubs, social clubs and fraternal organizations. Any gatherings involving groups of 10 or more will be told to disperse.

County public parks will stay open, however all playgrounds within the park will be closed.

Businesses
Non-essential businesses are ordered to close storefront operations and customer foot traffic if they can't meet CDC guidelines. However, businesses may continue internal and minimum basic operations required to maintain the businesses. Businesses are still required to enforce the CDC social distancing guidelines. Essential businesses may continue operations following the appropriate guidelines to the maximum extent possible.

Essential businesses include the following: 

  • First Responders, Police and Fire, Jails and Prisons
  • Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare operations
  • Community based organizations providing meals and social services
  • Human Service operations
  • Garbage and Sanitation workers
  • Transportation: including airports and public transportation such as PSTA
  • Utilities, Public Works and essential infrastructure
  • Critical trades: (Plumbers, Electricians, Exterminators, Security personnel, etc.)
  • Government essential service workers
  • Gas Stations
  • Food: (grocery stores, food banks, restaurants: delivery, take-out or curbside delivery)
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Laundromats
  • Funeral Services
  • Hotel and lodging
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Post offices and shipping services

Businesses that do not comply with the order will be subject to the appropriate enforcement action up to and including orders to close and criminal charges.

The Department of Health’s 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. this week.


March 24, 2020

An emergency Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners meeting has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday. Watch the meeting here.

Hillsborough County officials have also planned a 1:30 p.m. meeting Wednesday to consider a county-wide curfew.

On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order directing all people traveling from an area of substantial community spread outside Florida, specifically the New York Tri-State area (Connecticut, New Jersey and New York), and entering Florida through airports to isolate or quarantine for 14 days from time of entry or the duration of the person’s presence in the state, whichever is shorter. St. Pete/Clearwater and Tampa International Airports have increased screenings to reduce community spread.

Anticipating potential shortages in the county-wide response to COVID-19, Pinellas County is proactively collecting personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants. Citizens and businesses can help local food banks by donating items, too. Here’s complete information on donation locations.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is still looking for lodging partners interested in potential alternate housing requests for use by the government, healthcare facilities and other groups if the need arises. Please send availability and a contact person to [email protected].

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Senate will vote on the Phase III coronavirus relief package, but U.S. Travel is still hard at work to ensure key provisions to help our industry are included in the legislation. If you have not already done so, please submit an Action Alert now.

We’re striving to keep you informed and will continue to fight alongside you to return our industry where it was just weeks ago.

Here’s our hub of tourism industry resources that we’re updating daily, including frequently updated data slides and Visit Florida’s new tourism impacts dashboard.

All of VSPC’s consumer-facing content lives at VSPC.info.

The Department of Health’s 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. this week.


March 23, 2020

As you navigate through this extremely difficult time, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater wanted to make sure you are aware of the many resources available for your use. We’ve compiled them here (and will continue to update).

The VSPC staff has moved to a work-from-home scenario and continues to build out content to help promote local tourism industry businesses during this time at VSPC.info.

The Department of Health’s 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. this weekend.


March 20, 2020

Governor Ron DeSantis tightened restrictions on restaurants and food establishments across Florida today suspending on-premise food and alcohol consumption for customers, including hotel dining; however, those businesses can still operate kitchens to provide delivery and take-out services.

The order also allows alcohol sales for delivery or pick-up with food orders and requires the closure of gymnasiums and fitness centers.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is compiling local restaurants offering take-out and delivery here. Any interested in being featured can send information to [email protected].

Also Friday, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S.-Mexico border would be closing to non-essential travel, joining the U.S.-Canadian border, with both restrictions going into effect Saturday. That follows Thursday’s Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory from the U.S. State Department advising “U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.”

During this unprecedented, difficult time, VSPC is also looking for hotels that could be used by the government, health facilities and other groups that may come in during this crisis. Any interested hotels, please provide availability during the next 30, 60 and 90 days, along with point of contact by sending to [email protected].

Reminder, Pinellas County public beaches and public beach parking areas are closing effective 11:59 p.m. today until April 6. Pinellas County Parks and the Pinellas Trail remain open, but the beach order applies to Fred Howard Park (open except for beach and causeway access) and Sand Key Park (closed). Fort De Soto Park is also closed, but the boat ramp will remain open and the campgrounds will be open only to reservation-holders. 

All Florida State Park Beaches, including Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands, closed at 5 p.m. today until further notice. 

Here are other new updates worth sharing:

VSPC also has a hub of resources for local businesses and is providing real-time updates for consumers at VSPC.info.
The Department of Health’s 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. this weekend.


March 19, 2020

Citing public health and safety concerns over COVID-19, the Pinellas County Commission unanimously extended its state of local emergency another seven days and approved a resolution closing Pinellas County public beaches and public beach parking areas effective 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 20, until April 6.

Under the resolution, private owners along the beach are also asked to conform to the CDC guidelines of social distancing by maintaining 6 feet of separation from others and limiting group gatherings to no more than 10 people.

The Board also approved a resolution to ask the State of Florida to temporarily close Honeymoon Island State Park, including Caladesi Island, in the interest of protecting public health and safety.

Commissioners also urge residents to implement voluntary shelter in place practices.

The County resolution does supersede Wednesday’s Clearwater order to close Clearwater Beach on Monday.

As of Thursday evening, almost 20 municipalities and counties in Florida had decided to close beaches.

Here are other new updates worth sharing:

The Department of Health’s 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.


March 18, 2020 Update

On Wednesday evening, Clearwater’s City Council voted 4-1 to close public access to Clearwater Beach for two weeks, starting at 6 a.m. Monday.

The decision applies to people being on the sand but does not affect access to the island and doesn’t dictate any additional restrictions to businesses beyond what’s already in place by state or local order.

As of Wednesday night, no other Pinellas County beaches were closed.

Several other destinations throughout the state also made decisions to adjust beach access.

  • Collier County closed beach parking facilities as of sunset Wednesday until further notice.
  • The city of Sanibel also closed public beach parking as of Wednesday evening.
  • The town of Fort Myers Beach is closing all public parking, public beach access points and commercial activity starting at 6 p.m. Thursday and will remain in effect until at least April 21.
  • Lee County closed all county-owned beaches and the Fort Myers Beach Pier effective 6 p.m. Thursday until further notice.

In addition, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater held a stakeholder call midday Wednesday to discuss the difficult situation at hand, answer questions and share resources.

Here are some of VSPC's crisis management resources, including:

VSPC continues to provide real-time updates for consumers at VSPC.info and has built out a take-out and delivery list for restaurants and other services. If you have any updates or content ideas to share, please send them to [email protected].

Remember, the safety of your employees and patrons is a top priority as part of the County's response to COVID-19. Please note that on Tuesday, Pinellas County issued an Executive Order requiring that all restaurants and any other establishments licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on premises not limited by the governor's executive order must cease serving alcohol nightly by 10 p.m. This is to be done in addition to the CDC guidelines for social distancing: please maintain 6 feet of separation between your patron groups, and limit patron parties to no more than 10 people. This is critical to ensure we continue to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread in our community.

Here's the County's complete resource page, too.

The Department of Health's 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.


March 18, 2020 Update

A letter was issued today from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to help educate hotel guests on social distancing and following other local orders. Please see details here

Ongoing updates as they pertain to Restaurants, Bars, and Nightclubs can be found here


March 17, 2020 Update

On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis and Pinellas County Administrator Barry A. Burton announced new restrictions for the state and county, respectively, in an effort to slow the transmission of COVID-19.

Earlier in the day, DeSantis announced that bars, pubs and nightclubs cease the sale of alcoholic beverages for the next 30 days as of 5 p.m. today. The executive order specifically says “any licensee authorized to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises that derive more than 50% of its gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages shall suspend all sale of alcoholic beverages for thirty days from the date of this order…”

In addition, for the beaches, DeSantis emphasized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance of limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people and distancing themselves from other parties by 6 feet.

DeSantis brought the occupancy of restaurants down to 50%, emphasized the 6-foot-rule and limiting parties to no more than 10.

Following state guidance, Burton announced effective Wednesday, all restaurants and any other establishments licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on premises not limited by DeSantis’ executive order must cease serving alcohol nightly by 10 p.m. Burton and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri reiterated limiting group gatherings and practicing social distancing on Pinellas County beaches as they remain open at this time.

Late Tuesday, DeSantis announced all Florida schools would remain closed until April 15 and the state would be eliminating testing requirements.

Other important updates from Tuesday, include:

  • Florida's Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is now available to offer short-term, interest-free loans to businesses impacted by COVID-19. The application period runs through May 8. Apply here. The working capital loans are intended to bridge the gap between this event and when a business has secured longer-term recovery resources. Loans are interest-free and are due one year from the date of the promissory note.
  • The U.S. Small Business Association is offering two opportunities to learn more about its disaster recovery assistance on conference calls at either 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. Wednesday. The call will be held by phone at 786-749-6387 with conference ID 590047996.
  • Visit St. Pete/Clearwater continues to aggregate closures and FAQs at VSPC.info.
  • VSPC is looking for local businesses who offer digital gift cards for purchase as a way for locals and future visitors to contribute throughout this event while practicing social distancing.
  • VSPC would love to hear about any virtual or digital experiences your business is offering or has created. For instance, SunState Yoga in St. Pete is broadcasting Facebook Live yoga sessions. And The Dali Museum offers access to its collection online.
  • If you have any of the above to share with us, send to [email protected].
  • VSPC is working on a bridge marketing campaign that will be deployed when the timing is appropriate.
  • Pinellas County Parks & Conservation Resources (PCR) has canceled all park shelter reservations through April 30 and will be issuing refunds. No new reservations will be accepted until further notice. Fort De Soto Park reservations will be honored. PCR has closed Heritage Village.
  • On Monday, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said the city has outlawed events or gatherings on private and public property that consists of more than 50 people. In addition, beginning noon today, the city reduced occupancy of all restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and the Cross Bay Ferry by 50%. Finally, a new last call for alcohol is 9 p.m. The restrictions are until further notice.
  • Also Monday, the Florida Department of Health rolled out a new COVID-19 data and surveillance dashboard to help people process the latest information.
  • The Department of Health’s 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

March 16, 2020 Update

There's no understating the extreme hardship our local tourism partners are enduring and will continue to face in the coming weeks. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is committed to being here for you during this time and we promise to put everything we have behind a recovery effort that repositions our destination on its recent trajectory.

In the meantime, we are dedicated to keeping you informed and trying to help understand what's happening and what might be next.

Not long ago, President Donald Trump announced new mass gatherings guidance recommending that organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 10 people or more. That came less than 24 hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the new guidance was 50 people or more. In addition, President Trump discouraged all discretionary travel and said to stay away from bars and restaurants.

Just before that announcement from President Trump, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said the city has outlawed events or gatherings on private and public property that consist of more than 50 people. In addition, beginning noon Tuesday, the city is reducing occupancy of all restaurants, cafes, bars, movie theaters, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and the Cross Bay Ferry by 50%. Finally, a new last call for alcohol will be 9 p.m. The restrictions are until further notice.

At this time, Pinellas County and its municipalities haven't placed any restrictions on the beaches.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is aggregating closures and FAQs at VSPC.info. If you have an update you'd like to include on the page, please email to [email protected].

Also Monday, the Florida Department of Health rolled out a new COVID-19 data and surveillance dashboard to help people process the latest information.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has paused all television, radio, newspaper and digital out-of-home advertising, along with digital marketing until further notice. Visit Florida has done the same, along with closing all welcome centers until further notice.

VSPC is working on a bridge marketing campaign that will be deployed when the timing is appropriate.

Other notable announcements today:

  • Boris Johnson tells UK public to avoid non-essential contact and travel.
  • Canada closes border to most non-citizens (Americans are exempt).
  • Germany closing entry for 30 days from countries outside the EU, iincluding the UK.

It's imperative that all local businesses take part in the Business Damage Assessment survey to help the state determine damage related to this event. The survey results help the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity implement proper economic relief programs.

The Department of Health's 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.


March 13, 2020 Update

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners has declared a state of local emergency in order to give county administrator Barry Burton authority to approve expenditures and issue special orders specific to Pinellas County to ensure public safety during the COVID-19 local response. 

The county is encouraging social distancing by avoiding large gatherings and encouraging businesses to review their telecommuting plans. The Department of Health's 24-hour COVID-19 hotline is 866-779-6122 and the Pinellas County Citizen Information Center can be reached at 727-464-4333 until 8 tonight and from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced the activation of the Business Damage Assessment survey to understand the impact of COVID-19 on Florida's local businesses, including those in St. Pete/Clearwater. The survey results help the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity implement proper economic relief programs. 

VSPC encourages all local businesses to take part in the survey here during this difficult time. 

Pinellas County Schools has also announced that after scheduled Spring Break from March 16-20, schools will remain closed through Friday, March 27.

We've continued to have ongoing conversations with stakeholders, county officials and our agencies and will continue to provide updates when new information becomes available.


March 11, 2020 Update

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater understands COVID-19 has created difficult circumstances with a lot of uncertainty for many of our stakeholders. That uncertainty has permeated travel and beyond while greatly affecting meetings and group business throughout the world and locally.

And this morning Pinellas County's first two cases were reported, showing just how fluid this situation continues to be.

Despite all of that, VSPC has continued its marketing efforts near and far, including it's always-on, aggressive interest-based digital marketing tactics, as well as active social media promotion of people enjoying the destination. And the destination's largest events, like Firestone Grand Prix and Valspar Championship, are still on.

St. Pete/Clearwater is still a safe place to travel to, as the federal government has not issued any restrictions that affect travel to our area.

Additionally, VSPC had a call on Tuesday with our Public Relations, Advertising, Digital and Research agencies to discuss our summer marketing campaign timing and messaging, which has components starting in April heavily targeting Florida and Atlanta as our summertime visitation shifts primarily to drive markets.

Much of what we're hearing from hoteliers throughout St. Pete/Clearwater for March is stable; however, we understand it's not stable for everyone. Our focus is generating bookings from April and beyond. According to our international market reps, the outlook in the United Kingdom and Central Europe remains relatively positive with few cancellations and many taking a wait-and-see approach, but our destination is still considered a top long-haul destination.

We want to know what effects you're seeing, so please share by sending us an email at [email protected].

Travel and tourism are vital to our lives and businesses and we take that very seriously. In times like this, our mission is underscored to make sure the No.1 employer in Pinellas County is fully supported.

Here are resources:

Recent survey on if American travel would be affected by COVID-19, conducted by Destination Analysts.
Recent survey on meeting planner sentiment, conducted by Northstar Meetings Group.
Helpful Q&As from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including whether someone should cancel a trip (the answer is no).
U.S. Travel toolkits, including talking points with media.
Tampa International Airport's update on increased cleaning and sanitation efforts.
Florida Department of Health's rundown of the number of cases, etc.
We know you've heard it...the CDC recommends three ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and similar viruses: wash your hands, avoid touching your face and stay home if you are sick.

VSPC will provide further updates when new information becomes available.


March 4, 2020 Update

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater just completed a COVID-19 call with U.S. Travel and other national agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Customs and Border Protection, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration and Tourism Economics.

The overwhelming message is that the federal government is not recommending limiting domestic travel during this situation. In fact, the CDC has a host of helpful questions and answers surrounding inquiries about canceling a trip that we encourage our partners to reference.

St. Pete/Clearwater is open for business and we are continuing with our ongoing marketing efforts as usual. Hoteliers, please let us know about guest questions and cancelations here.

It's important to continue emphasizing the usual best ways to prevent illness, as recommended by the Department of Health. They are:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • Staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with persons in poor health;
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Covering your cough or sneezing with a tissue, then disposing of the tissue;
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

With the situation evolving rapidly, we encourage our partners and the traveling public to follow any guidance offered by the Florida Department of Health and the CDC.

For more information on COVID-19, refer to the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

VSPC will provide further updates when new information becomes available.


March 2, 2020 Update

Last night, Governor Ron DeSantis directed State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to declare a public health emergency in Florida as two cases of COVID-19 in Hillsborough and Manatee Counties surfaced and have since been confirmed. According to the Florida Department of Health, the risk to the public in Florida remains low.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is monitoring the situation and is working closely with Pinellas County, the Florida Department of Health, Visit Florida and U.S. Travel to stay informed on the latest information.

The federal government has not recommended limiting domestic travel. Here is specific information from the CDC regarding travel.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. As a reminder, the Department of Health always recommends everyday preventative actions to help impede the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • Staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with persons in poor health;
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Covering your cough or sneezing with a tissue, then disposing of the tissue;
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

With the situation evolving rapidly, we encourage our partners and the traveling public to follow any guidance offered by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For more information on COVID-19, refer to the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

VSPC will provide further updates when new information becomes available.


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