Expert: St. Augustine seeing lowest tourism since 9/11 due to COVID-19

Tourism takes a hit

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla — An expert tells Action News Jax that due to the coronavirus, tourism in St. Augustine is the lowest he has seen since 9/11.

The Action News Jax Sky Vision Drone showed an empty, ancient city Wednesday.

“My wife and I walked the town two days ago, and it was a beautiful day. The place looked great, but there was virtually no one there,” said Irving Kass, the owner of the St. George Inn. “It was as slow as I’ve ever seen it.”

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Kass runs the bed-and-breakfast which is named after one of the city’s most iconic, normally bustling streets.

On Thursday, Kass made the tough decision to close, for now, and furlough employees.

“We were looking at not having any occupancy this weekend, so we made the decision that it would be best for the health of all of our employees and for our guests to just close the business and wait for the curve to flatten out,” Kass said. “So, we opted today to close the property.”

The president and CEO of the St. Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau said normally for this time of year, hotels would be around 90% occupancy.

Instead, Richard Goldman said hotels are in the single digits.

“The last time we saw anything like this was, of course, 9/11,” Goldman said.

The difference then was that experts had an idea of how long it would take business to bounce back.

Still, locals like Kass are trying to stay optimistic. He hopes tourism will be back to normal for nights of lights.

NOTE: Visit Florida, our state’s tourism website, is asking businesses to record their cancellations and submit information with a form to help the state determine how much damage Florida suffered from COVID-19 closures.