Local businesses discuss tourism recovery during Florida’s reopening

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — It’s National Tourism and Travel week and when the St. Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau would normally discuss efforts to increase tourism.

After the coronavirus pandemic halted all tourism in Florida, their team is sharing new research with local businesses on recovery efforts.

According to the bureau, research shows 55% of people are willing to take a staycation this summer, compared to 41% last month. When asked where people would travel, 38% said a beach destination or resort, 30% said small towns or destinations.

When considering visiting public commercial locations, research shows people feel more comfortable when hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes are provided, employees wear face masks and gloves, and the business’s cleaning procedure is explained to customers.

“Sanitizing anything that guests would touch, remote controls, keys, handrails. So we’re going around the Inn constantly throughout the day making sure all constantly touched items are constantly sanitized,” Julio Torres said.

Torres and his wife, Michaele O’Neil, own the Carriage Way Inn Bed and Breakfast in Downtown St. Augustine. The Inn was built in 1883 and located on Cuna Street in the Historic District. For the first time in its long history, they have had to close its doors for two months because of the coronavirus.

“Two months without any occupancy puts a drain on your cash reserves, makes it difficult to pay your bills, your mortgage, your utility bills, and so forth,” Torres said.

Since Phase 1 of reopening Florida, they said they have had some new reservations. But they are hoping its ramps up this weekend.

“When more of the restaurants and attractions are coming back online that as more things open then more guests will come and stay at Carriage Way,” O’Neil said.