ST. PETERSBURG BEACH, Fla. — A potential domestic travel ban has state leaders and local business owners worried during one of the Tampa Bay area’s busiest tourist season.
“The number one job producer and economic impact in Florida is tourism,” Anthony Satterfield said. “That will be devastating to our industry.”
Satterfield is the president of the Alden Suites in St. Pete Beach. He’s upset that this idea is even public and some tourists agree.
“I probably wouldn’t have come,” said Dawn Steinmeyer.
She’s from Wisconsin and was in need of a vacation.
“We have had an amazing time,” she said. “It’s 28 degrees below zero at home. In fact, the kids didn’t have school because of the cold.”
Steinmeyer said she’s making sure her family is staying safe while employing the heat. They have their masks, are practicing social distancing and she even got the coronavirus vaccine before traveling.
“I had it eight days before I left, so I felt a little safer," she said.
But had she known about the possible travel ban, she would have canceled her reservations.
Clearwater and other local beach towns lost nearly $9.4 million because of COVID-19. Some local hotels are predicting a 41 percent drop in revenue because of a potential travel ban.
“That’s the problem,” Satterfield said. “Just this reaching the public creates a perception that Florida is closed down. It’s horrific.”
Satterfield said it’s just like the 2010 oil spill.
“It never came anywhere near us, yet there was a perception all over the world that the entire state of Florida was impacted by it,” he said. “Perception is just as important as reality.”
The problem for local heath experts is that COVID-19 cases continue to rise daily, and Florida is now leading the nation with 379 confirmed cases of the new UK variant of the virus. Something needs to be done to stop the spread.
Unfortunately, the question for everyone is still, what?