Tampa is one of the biggest tourist spots in Florida as well as a popular summer destination for those from out of state. However, during times like these, we see how fragile an economy based on tourism really is. This is why Tampa should rely less on tourism for its revenue.
Focusing on tourism normally makes sense. According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the Tampa Bay area had nearly 500,000 international visitors from Europe, Latin America and beyond, many here to see attractions like Busch Gardens, Adventure Island and Clearwater Beach.
These visitors bring in revenue for local governments. Visit Tampa Bay, the agency responsible for coordinating tourism in the region, collected over $600 million in tourism revenue in 2018. That’s hard to ignore. The issue lies in what Tampa does when tourists aren’t visiting anymore, like right now.
Because cities like Tampa rely so heavily on tourism for its revenue, the city is very susceptible to economic recessions when people aren’t traveling, like during the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Not only is Tampa Bay vulnerable to economic trouble during a time of panic, the region is also the perfect breeding pool for a pandemic to spread. While many stayed home, Tampa Bay area beaches were still packed with college students over spring break.
Some believe this has been a cause of Florida’s slow response to the coronavirus pandemic. Reluctant to issue a stay-at-home order over fears of Floridians losing their jobs, Gov. Ron DeSantis explained that he would not take drastic measures like other states have done.
“When you order people to shelter-in-place, you are consigning probably hundreds of thousands of Floridians to lose their jobs … If you look at Florida’s situation right now this is not a virus that’s impacting every corner of the state,” DeSantis said.
This statement was made on March 24, and as of March 29 there are now over 3,000 cases of Coronavirus recorded in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The speed and severity at which Floridians are receiving quarantine orders is alarmingly low and may be connected to economic concerns.
Our state government should not be reluctant to go the distance concerning something as significant as public health when the coronavirus is currently running rampant in other tourism-heavy states like New York and California.
To make Tampa Bay’s economy more resilient, local leaders should focus less on getting people to visit and more on getting people to stay, with good-paying jobs in sectors like health care, technology, finance and education.
As COVID-19 changes our economy for good, Florida deserves more than just another tourist trap.
Nicholas Cousineau is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.