PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County leaders are on a mission to not repeat history with the start of the Spring Break season quickly approaching. Last year, our prized beaches were packed with tourists, fueling pandemic fears and making national headlines as COVID-19 concerns climbed.
Visit St. Pete Clearwater leaders insist that this year will be different.
Steve Hayes, the President of Visit St. Pete Clearwater says their Rise to Shine safety campaign focuses on enforcing safe behavior. “A big difference between last year and this year is there is so much more known about the pandemic now, so people are much more conscious about what they need to do,” he explained.
Now, doing the right like wearing a mask or social distancing is paying off. From now until the end of April, Sunshine Steward Street Teams will be out visiting tourism hot spots and rewarding visitors and locals with $25 gift cards for following COVID-19 precautions.
Tourism leaders are encouraging recipients to use the gift cards at local businesses that are also adhering to safety protocols.
Hannah Clavelle was visiting the St. Pete Pier Friday. Clavelle is from Vermont and was wearing her mask at the busy outdoor attraction. She was rewarded with one of the gift cards.
“It’s pretty cool. I never thought we’d just be walking and get a gift card just for being safe,” she said with cheer.
Tourism leaders are also rolling out a Rise To Shine pledge. If you promise to do your part to stay safe, you can win a 5-day trip to stay on Pinellas County’s coastline. You can fill out the pledge here: http://ultimatebeachday.com
Businesses are also doing their part to keep visitors safe.
“Out here on the beach you’ve got your cabanas and umbrellas and it gives you kind of a private space so it’s not like you’re sitting on top of one another,” said Hunter Dotson of Sand Dunes Beach Services, which rents cabanas on St. Pete Beach.
Together, businesses, tourism leaders and tourists are teaming up to encourage safety with fun in the sun still top of mind.
Visit St. Pete Clearwater plans to give out 600 $25 gift cards from now until the end of April. The Sunshine Stewards will visit the following locations: Clearwater Beach Pier 60, St. Pete Beach, Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, Treasure Island, Honeymoon Island, Pass-A-Grille Beach, the John’s Pass Boardwalk, Clearwater Beach Walk, St. Petersburg’s Edge District, Dunedin’s Main Street, Beach Drive in downtown St. Pete and the Safety Harbor Main Street.
Myriam Greenberg and her daughter Samantha were visiting Pinellas County from Winter Park on Friday and also received a gift card. They both believe safety should be top of mind. “You shouldn’t have to give gift cards to get people to do the right thing I would say but definitely it’s a beautiful gesture,” Myriam added.
Both tourists and local residents who are following COVID-19 protocols will be randomly selected for the gift cards.
You can find more information on what Visit St. Pete Clearwater is doing to keep people safe at their website.