PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — COVID, rising gas prices, and inflation are among the many reasons why people might not want to travel these days.
But over the summer, they're still coming by the thousands to Pinellas County.
“We were a little nervous going into the summer. The booking pace was a little behind,” said Clyde Smith, general manager of the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island.
Smith said that pace has picked up, and they are going to hit or even top last year’s marks.
He said higher gas prices might be the reason he’s seeing so many Floridians choosing to stay close to home.
“We are hearing Tampa. We are hearing Brooksville. Really that drive-in market that wants to get away and go to the beach and doesn’t want to leave the state or fly out anywhere,” said Smith.
Plenty of visitors are coming from out of state too. St. Pete/Clearwater International Airport said they’ve posted a record for monthly passengers for the fourth straight month.
“Allegiant that flies into the airport has maintained very strong service over the last couple of years. They’ve continued to open new markets, which again bring people to our community. And I think as you start seeing our advertising and our messaging outside the market, the people still want to get away. We are seeing them come here,” said Steve Hayes, CEO of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.
Another good gauge of how well tourism is going is parking revenue at John’s Pass Village.
And it was the same from April to June as it was during the height of spring break.
“There’s a great number of the American public that did not travel over the last two years. And now they are able to get out because everybody’s pretty much open,” said Hayes.
Even though people may not have made their plans well in advance, there is still an overwhelming urge to get away.
“Bookings are coming later than we would normally expect. But we staff up, and they come in, and we are happy to have them,” said Smith.