COVID-19 Industry Update
March 11, 2021
It appears there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
While the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, we have a lot to be excited about: vaccine progress locally and nationally, record-high traveler sentiment since the pandemic began a year ago and STR data that is showing the sentiment is translating into visitation to St. Pete/Clearwater.
One year after Pinellas County had its first COVID-19 case, public health officials on Tuesday shared signs of more progress in the long battle against the virus during the Board of County Commissioners’ regular meeting.
As options for vaccines expand and new groups are invited to make appointments, nearly 176,000 Pinellas County residents have received at least one vaccine dose, including more than 132,000 seniors, which equals nearly 18 percent of the county population. In addition, another 10,000 residents, including 8,800 seniors, have received vaccines through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Pinellas County.
In all, well over half of the County’s senior population has been vaccinated as the State of Florida begins opening the vaccine to people 60 and older next week. Residents 65 and older, as well as other groups recently made eligible, can book appointments at PatientPortalFL.com or by calling 844-770-8548.
With this week’s latest Destination Analysts Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index, traveler sentiment is as positive as we’ve seen in a year. Those aspects that are most positive since the research began March 13-15, 2020, include: perceived safety of travel activities, confidence in ability to travel safety, travel state of mind, excitement to travel now and openness to travel information.
Simply put, there’s a lot to be excited about when looking at what travelers are telling us.
And it’s not just talk, people are traveling.
According to STR, St. Pete/Clearwater had its two highest weeks of lodging occupancy since March 9-15, 2020, the past two weeks: Feb. 21-27 at 72.92% and Feb. 28-March 6 at 72.1%. And in February alone, the destination had five nights of 80+% occupancy compared to just three nights since March 13, 2020.
Of course, visitation numbers won’t reach March and April 2019 levels, but the progress we’re seeing on multiple fronts is something to be excited about.
In the meantime, we’ve seen more than 24,000 people take our Rise to Shine Pledge to visit safely and responsibly and our Sunshine Steward street teams have been busy rewarding visitors and making headlines. Local businesses are still encouraged to use recently updated signage and opt-in to the Rise to Shine program to receive free materials promoting safe travel.
Below are other pertinent updates:
PERFECT GAME COMING BACK TO ST. PETE, THE TROP
In collaboration with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater’s Sports & Events team, the 21st annual Perfect Game National Showcase is returning to Tropicana Field in St. Pete July 14-18 this year. The showcase is a platform for elite athletes heading into their final year of high school baseball from around the country. Perfect Game is the world’s largest elite youth baseball and softball platform and scouting service.
PIE HOSTING JOB FAIR FOR TENANT BUSINESSES MARCH 16
St. Pete/Clearwater International Airport (PIE) is hosting a job fair for its tenant businesses, including airline and concessionaire jobs, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16. No advance appointments are necessary, but all positions require a criminal background check. Applications will be accepted and interviews held on the second floor at the Fuel Bar Restaurant area. Complete details can be found here.
PINELLAS COUNTY VIRTUAL FINANCE FAIR HAPPENING MARCH 30
Entrepreneurs and business owners have the opportunity to meet dozens of different lenders from across the region who are ready to help finance your business at the upcoming Pinellas County Virtual Finance Fair. The free event takes place from 10-11:30 a.m. on Zoom. The goal is to fuel businesses growth and expansion throughout Tampa Bay by providing one stop to compare lending options in a no-pressure environment. Complete details and registration here.
MIKE MEIDEL ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT FROM ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Mike Meidel, Director of Pinellas County Economic Development, announced his retirement after 17 years of service with the county. His last day in the office will be April 30, 2021. During Meidel’s time, he directed successful initiatives focused on redevelopment, entrepreneurship, job creation, employer retention, business recruitment, workforce development and the implementation of the Penny for Pinellas IV for economic development. In the coming weeks, Pinellas County will begin a national search for the next director. The Next Move Group has been selected to manage the recruitment and inquires/resumes can be sent to Chad Chancellor at [email protected].
PINELLAS COUNTY LAUNCHING EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, a part of the federal stimulus package passed in late December, makes available $25 billion to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the pandemic. Pinellas County received $21.4 million to implement this program to support renter populations earning less than 80% of the Area Media Income (AMI), with households earning less than 50% of AMI given priority assistance. Go here to determine eligibility. A webinar for landlords and property managers will be from noon-1 p.m. on March 12, FAQs can be found here and people can sign up for text message alerts for the program by texting pinellasrent to 888777.
BEACHSIDE HOSPITALITY GROUP BUYS FORMER GATOR’S LOCATION IN TREASURE ISLAND
Crabby’s On The Pass is coming to Treasure Island after Beachside Hospitality Group recently bought the former Gator’s Café & Saloon location across from John’s Pass Village. Renovations to the property are ongoing and this will be Beachside Hospitality Group’s 11th location in the state and sixth in St. Pete/Clearwater. Crabby’s On The Pass is slated to open to the public this April and will offer boat parking, live music and large indoor event space.
KEEP PINELLAS BEAUTIFUL, OCEAN ALLIES ROLL OUT NEW HOSPITALITY ECO-PARTNERSHIP
VSPC collaborated with Keep Pinellas Beautiful and Ocean Allies for a webinar recently to highlight a new hospitality eco-partnership. The partnership is built around education, engagement and empowerment on the importance of protecting our destination. The full webinar can be viewed here. For questions about the program, email [email protected].
TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT GAINS SERVICE, HYGIENIC AWARD
On Thursday, seasonal Southwest service from San Diego relaunched with flights five times a week at Tampa International Airport (TPA). And starting April 2, Silver Airways is launching twice-weekly service from Savannah, Georgia. Also, the Airports Council International recently named TPA one of the most hygienic airports in North America as part of the organization’s annual Airport Service Quality awards. Only 33 airports across the globe and five others in North America earned the inaugural award for Best Hygiene Measures.
NATIONAL TRAVEL & TOURISM WEEK PLANNED FOR MAY 2-8
U.S. Travel Association recently announced this year’s National Travel & Tourism Week will take place May 2-8 and this year’s theme will be the Power of Travel. The annual week-long event recognizes the impact travel has on the economy, American jobs, communities and our livelihoods.
CDC RELEASES NEW GUIDANCE FOR FULLY VACCINATED AMERICANS
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans. The guidelines state that once fully vaccinated, people can socialize indoors without masks amongst other fully vaccinated people but should continue to follow public health guidelines while in public. If exposed to COVID-19, vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine or get tested if they are not exhibiting symptoms. Also, a new CDC study provides strong evidence that mask mandates can slow the spread of COVID-19 and dining at restaurants may increase the number of cases.
MARRIOTT INCENTIVIZING EMPLOYEES WHO VACCINATE
Marriott unveiled its new Vaccination Care Program, which provides a financial award to U.S. and Canadian associates at its properties who get vaccinated for COVID-19.
GERMANY EXTENDS ITS NATIONAL SHUTDOWN UNTIL MARCH 28
Last week, Germany extended its shutdown until March 28, but is easing some restrictions to allow nonessential stores and other businesses to reopen in areas with relatively low infection rates. There is now a phased plan in place that allows for limited and gradual relaxation of restrictions.