Make us your home page

2009 was a tough year for Pinellas tourism

Just how bad was 2009 for Pinellas tourism businesses?

About 202,000 fewer visitors spent at least one night in the county than in 2008, a decline of nearly 4 percent. Tourist spending was down $158.3 million, or 4.7 percent, from a year earlier. The official annual visitor total — 4,991,420 — didn't break the 5 million mark for the first time since 2003.

"We knew it was coming, a major contraction," said Walter Klages, president of Research Data Services, which tracks tourism statistics for the county. "What happened after 9/11 doesn't compare to the impact we've had."

Travel from the Midwest, the area's biggest feeder market, showed the sharpest decline — off by nearly 128,000 visitors, or 8 percent, from 2008. The bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, along with layoffs at their suppliers, kept many would-be vacationers home.

Visits from the Midwest strengthened by the end of 2009. But that's when European travel began to fall off. For 2009, European visitors declined by 53,000, or 5.3 percent, from a year earlier. Klages blamed the declining value of the euro against the dollar and concerns over government debt in Greece, Portugal and Spain.

There was one bright spot: More Floridians vacationed close to home. Nearly 600,000 Sunshine State residents visited Pinellas overnight, an 8 percent increase over 2008. Tampa and Orlando tourists made up the biggest numbers.

As ugly as 2009 turned out, Pinellas hotels fared better than peers across the state. Average daily room rates in Clearwater and St. Petersburg fell 6 percent, and occupancy dropped 5.4 percent, less than the state average and seven Florida markets surveyed by Smith Travel Research.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

By the numbers


Drop in visitors who

spent at least one night

in Pinellas (almost 4 percent fewer than in 2008).


Drop in tourist spending

(4.7 percent less than a year earlier).

2009 was a tough year for Pinellas tourism 02/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 8:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PunditFact: George Will's comparison of tax preparers, firefighters based on outdated data


    The statement

    "America has more people employed as tax preparers (1.2 million) than as police and firefighters."

    George Will, July 12 in a column

    The ruling

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Conservative newspaper columnist George Will poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to FOX News Channel's Brit Hume on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hume was honored for his 35 years in journalism. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
  2. Appointments at Shutts & Bowen and Tech Data highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Retired U.S. Navy Commander Scott G. Johnson has joined Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office as a senior attorney in the firm's Government Contracts and Corporate Law Practice Groups. Johnson brings 15 years of legal experience and 24 years of naval service to his position. At Shutts, Scott will …

    United States Navy Commander (Retired) Scott G. Johnson joins Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office. [Company handout]
  3. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board


    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares nearly 25 percent


    CLEARWATER — Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower


    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]