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Tampa Bay tourism leaders focus on 'brighter days ahead'

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Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 19:17:42-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. -- Rebounding from the impacts of the coronavirus. The Tampa Bay tourism leaders are launching a new campaign to bring back visitors once COVID-19 cases subside.

The beaches are vacant. Parking lots are mostly abandoned and Steven Rodriguez has never seen our coastline this quiet.

“It’s deadly quiet. There’s no traffic. There’s no people in and out of our office, our phones aren’t ringing,” Rodriguez added.

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Bookings at his vacation rental company are down 94 percent.

“May is sitting empty. In June, we’ve had cancellation after cancellation,” he added.

Suzanne Brown knows the feeling. Sales at Slyc Pizza Bar are also down double digits. Both Brown and Rodriguez are anxious to see our community rebound.

“It’ll be funny. Everybody will go ‘man the traffic is terrible,’ which will be a great thing to be saying,” Brown said with a laugh.

A new study just released by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Commission found although Florida has fewer COVID-19 cases per capita than many other states, our economy could take longer to rebound because tourism is our lifeline.

“People aren’t going to be comfortable traveling right away and that’s okay. We have to do this smartly,” Leroy Bridges of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater said.

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater recently launched a new “Brighter Days Ahead” campaign, which will soon be aimed at bringing in visitors from drive able destinations. Once state leaders say it’s safe again, they’ll target visitors across Florida, Chicago, Atlanta and Indianapolis.

“We’re going to be doing everything in our power to make sure people can get our message, know we are open for business but do it responsibly,” Bridges added.

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Tourism leaders know it will take time, but together, we will bounce back.

“We’ve been through hurricanes, recessions. We’ve weathered the storm and learned to become a resilient region,” Sean Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council said.

“The sooner it can happen, as safely as it can happen, everyone is ready to open their doors,” Brown added.