Advertisement
  1. Business

Is Tampa the new Miami for tourists?

A Segway tour is seen along the Tampa Riverwalk along with pedestrians in May. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Jul. 25

TAMPA — As tourism analyst Chris Klauda was on her way from Tennessee to Tampa, she chatted with a fellow traveler: "a classic millennial."

"She told me Tampa was the new Miami," Klauda said during a Thursday morning presentation to a group of Hillsborough County hoteliers.

Of course, the local crowd was happy to hear that description of its city on the rise. Since the recession, Tampa Bay's development and tourism scene has exploded. Visit Tampa Bay reported this week visitors pumped $6.6 billion into Hillsborough County last year, fueling tens of thousands of local jobs. More than 2,000 hotel rooms are under construction right now in Tampa Bay, with big events on the horizon that promise to bring even more visitors.

"You guys have a lot to look forward to," Klauda said during the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association forum.

Local hoteliers and vendors are in the midst of celebrating the area's growth while attempting to predict the future. They're uneasy about even the slightest possibility of a recession, but already anticipating the onslaught of Super Bowl visitors come 2021. Klauda, a senior director with tourism researcher STR Inc., and other experts used data during Thursday's presentation to forecast for the local industry what they can expect.

Overall Tampa Bay is in a good place: The number of trendy hotels opening over the next 12 months doesn't outpace the anticipated demand of those who are looking for high-class visits or business trips.

A record 126.1 million people visited Florida last year, according to Visit Florida. More than 30 million people of them visited Tampa Bay, according to data from local tourism groups Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and Visit Tampa Bay.

Visit Tampa Bay, which promotes Hillsborough, just published a study it commissioned through analysts at Tourism Economics this week that showed overall visitor spending up nearly 7 percent in 2018, at about $4.2 billion. Pinellas County has reported a total economic impact of about $8.4 billion from its tourism industry.

But across the state tourism-related businesses are adjusting to fewer, or a stagnant number of international travelers.

"International travel has been in a rough patch for the last few years," said Visit Florida analyst Jacob Yancey. "Overseas markets have mostly declined."

Just over a half-million visitors came to the Tampa area from other countries — a slight uptick from 2017. Yet that 2 percent of overall visitors made up about 16 percent of overall visitor spending in Hillsborough County.

Yancey suggested hoteliers, and the tourism industry at large, continue to focus on the experiences of their destination to keep increasing their visitor numbers. Several studies presented Thursday showed millennials prefer to feel like they are part of the city they're visiting by embracing local foods and night life, rather than feeling like a tourist at theme parks.

"People think they know Florida," he said, "it's still about changing hearts and minds."

Analysts also told attendees to be begin renovations and up their own prices to compete with the several higher-end boutique hotels slated to open in Tampa in the coming months, like The Current Hotel slated to open this summer.

Overall, Kadula told the hoteliers that the next 12 to 18 months will likely wobble between negative and positive, pending an unpredictable event that would prompt a sudden drop. As for Tampa becoming the new Miami?

Kadula said the national stage at 2021's Super Bowl will be the perfect time for the city to make its case.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com or . Follow @sara_dinatale.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tech Data's CEO Rich Hume (left) shares a moment with former CEO Bob Dutkowsky during a send off celebration for Dutkowsky earlier this year. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
    A private equity firm has agreed to buy Tech Data.
  2. Joseph Erickson, 53, looks out the window at the gulf-[front condo he thought he won at a foreclosure auction last year.t JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    "There have been serious allegations,'' Judge Keith Meyer said.
  3. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Shoppers in Tampa Bay can now skip the line and cash out alcohol on their own phones.
  4. Which cars hold their value best in Tampa Bay? Pictured is traffic in Tampa Bay in 2017. [Times file photo] ELLIOTT, LOREN  |  Elliott, Loren
    For the top spots, think big and rugged.
  5. A rendering of the planned Pinstripes bowling, bocce and bistro space that is planned to open at International Plaza alongside a Cinemex in spring 2021. Pinstripes
    In addition to upscale bowling and movies, there will also be bocce ball and a bistro.
  6. Tech Data's headquarters in Largo. TD AGENCY  |  Courtesy of Tech Data
    The company is being sold to a private equity firm.
  7. St. Petersburg's new 26-acre Pier District, with components that will include a coastal thicket walking path, marketplace, playground and pavilion, is nearing completion. Shown is the tilted lawn in front of the Pier head building that is being created  with Geofoam, soil and grass. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    St. Petersburg hopes to sell naming rights in the Pier District — available for annual payments of $50,000 to $1 million for 10-year terms — to help offset taxpayer subsidies.
  8. Tech Data chief executive officer Rich Hume talks to company employees about the pending acquisition of Tech Data for $5.4 billion at a global town hall meeting on Wednesday morning. David Kiester | Tech Data
    Apollo Global Management has offered $130 per share of Tech Data stock. If shareholders approve, the home-grown company will remain based in Pinellas County.
  9. Isabella Yosuico of Safety Harbor with some of the Mighty Tykes wrist and ankle bands she invted to help her son Isaac, who has Down Syndrome, and other children with weak muscles. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A product to help special needs kids leads to big loans, a lawsuit and a bungled bankruptcy
  10. The Pinellas County Commission moved closer Tuesday to granting a total of $20.6 million to three museums: the Salvidor Dali Museum (top), the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center (bottom left), and the St. Petersburg Museum of History. Photos courtesy of Pinellas County
    The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg Museum of History and Tampa Bay Watch are on track to receive bed tax dollars for expansions.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement