Thursday, April 19, 2018
Business

Tampa Bay hotels, beaches try to lure tourists back after Hurricane Irma

TAMPA — Now that Hurricane Irma's winds have passed, Tampa Bay's tourism industry is eager to get visitors flying back in. The message: Irma hasn't derailed us.

"The tourism industry is resilient," said Leroy Bridges, media and interactive director at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. "It's important to get back to normal as soon as possible."

"It's business as usual," added Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. "We are in good shape to continue tourism here."

COMPLETE COVERAGE:Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

While sympathetic to hard-hit destinations such as the Florida Keys, Jacksonville and Miami Beach, Corrada said part of the messaging to tourists is that not all of Florida was impacted the same way. Tampa Bay came out well considering the projections of potential flooding, storm surge and wind damage.

"Unless you lived through an event like Hurricane Andrew," he said. "You don't understand how very fortunate we are."

Many local hotels — if they have power — are booked and busy already. Even without an influx of travelers returning, they have plenty of powerless residents and out-of-town relief workers filling their rooms.

Yet, there's still room to accommodate more guests, said Bob Morrison, director of the Hillsborough County Hotel & Motel Association. As more homes get power restored, more rooms are becoming available, he continued. At the same time, more hotels are regaining electricity and opening up again.

Most of the top tourist attractions — including Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Riverwalk and Lowry Park Zoo — are back open. Tampa International Airport, which opened with limited operations Tuesday, and St. Pete-Clearwater Airport both resumed flights Wednesday.

Sports fans will also spill into town to attend several football games including the Tampa Classic, a match-up between Florida A&M and Tennessee State, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking on the Chicago Bears.

Patrick Burns, the manager of the Crystal Bay Hotel in St. Pete, said he received a few worried calls from international travelers, who he reassured them that hotel was "full service" and ready for guests.

"We are not missing a beat," he said. "If they get here by the weekend, they won't even know the difference."

Tourism is a big economic driver for Tampa Bay and the state with consistent record-setting tourism numbers. Last year, 22.6 million people visited Tampa and Hillsborough County pumping nearly $6 billion into the economy, according to a study commissioned by Visit Tampa Bay. Pinellas County had more than 15 million visitors totaling about $10 billion in economic impact, according to the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

TradeWinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach is completely booked this weekend hosting close to 1,200 Duke Energy workers, who arrived Monday night to help restore power throughout the area. The energy company commissioned close to 13,000 additional out-of-state workers.

Keith Overton, president of TradeWinds, expects a quiet and slow weekend with limited hotel staff, as the energy linemen work throughout the day and are provided meals off-site.

St. Petersburg's The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club is also sold out but was fully booked before Irma.

"We are back on our feet again," Vibeke Sansone, the director of sales and marketing, said. She added the property received little flood damage and a few broken windows, which temporarily made some rooms unavailable. The golf course is without power.

The Don CeSar expects a "fairly full house" and to be "operating at 100 percent," as the hotel reopened on Friday, said Jim Gross, the interim general manager. The Beach House Suites by the Don CeSar opened Wednesday.

Not every hotel was untouched. The morning after Irma, a ton of debris from the roof of the Howard Johnson Resort Hotel in St. Pete Beach scattered across the parking lot. Nevertheless, the hotel opened Friday.

Among smaller lodgings, Bob Sauerwine, general manager of Postcard Inn, also reported little damage.

"Everything is totally fine; we're fully operational," he said, adding that the hotel had "very little" cancellations.

Contact Tierra Smith at [email protected] tampabay.com. Follow @bytierrasmith.

Comments
St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

ST. PETERSBURG — Beef jerky, mayonnaise and Altoids mints were the only edible things in view inside one of the houses. There was no running water. The refrigerator was empty. A bed sat on top of the deteriorating living room floor. Cigarette butts b...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

ST. PETERSBURG — Development of the city’s long-awaited pier advanced another step Thursday.The City Council approved a $15 million construction contract and additional money to design a waterside restaurant, build a playground and ferret out naming ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Those who use mass transit across the Tampa Bay area can ride for free on Sunday.To celebrate Earth Day, both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will be offering free rides on Su...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

Here’s your first look at what will be Riverwalk Place, Tampa’s tallest tower

TAMPA — Developers on Thursday detailed plans for what they touted as the tallest building on Florida’s west coast, with condominiums priced in six and seven figures and a shimmering glass design they say would stand out in the skylines of New York, ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Wells Fargo said to be target of $1 billion fine

Wells Fargo said to be target of $1 billion fine

Federal regulators are poised to impose a $1 billion penalty on Wells Fargo for a number of alleged misdeeds, including forcing customers to buy auto insurance policies that they didn’t need, according to people briefed on the regulatory action. The ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Marriott Edition to bring five-star hotel ambitions to Water Street Tampa

Marriott Edition to bring five-star hotel ambitions to Water Street Tampa

TAMPA — At the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, hotelier Ian Schrager transformed a Jazz Age building with its own rich history into a destination offering even more heady experiences — extravagant, edgy and bohemian.In Tampa, Schrager will have...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

CLEARWATER — A longtime IBM executive is becoming the new leader of Tampa Bay’s largest public company. Tech Data on Thursday named Richard "Rich" Hume as its new CEO effective June 6. Hume joined Tech Data two years ago and is currently the chief op...
Updated: 9 hours ago
LA Fitness tones up Hillsborough location

LA Fitness tones up Hillsborough location

When LA Fitness on West Hillsborough Ave. reopens mid-summer, it will have undergone a $5 million renovation and a complete transformation. Closed since November 2017, the 10-year-old facility was completely torn down and is still undergoing construc...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Kids have fun and gain coding skills at Code Ninja in Westchase

Kids have fun and gain coding skills at Code Ninja in Westchase

A new program that teaches coding to kids is coming to the Tampa Bay area. Code Ninjas is a Houston-based franchise that is opening its first location in Westchase in early May. There are plans for other centers in Carrollwood, South Tampa, New Tampa...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Graze all day at Armature Works

Graze all day at Armature Works

TAMPA HEIGHTS— Graze 1910 upholds the comfortable and relaxing, yet elegant setting of Armature Works with its "comfort food" offerings and dedication to serving breakfast all day."It’s the way I eat. I graze all day," said owner Raymond "Ray" Menend...
Updated: 12 hours ago