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Economic impact report 'bittersweet' for destination marketing agency leader

Tourism contributed $6.9 billion to Tampa and Hillsborough County in 2019. Then the pandemic hit.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. August 14, 2020
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Courtesy. Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada.
Courtesy. Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada.
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A new report issued by analysis firm Tourism Economics rubs salt in the wounds of Tampa Bay’s reeling tourism and hospitality industry, which, just like in so many other parts of Florida, has mostly ground to a halt because of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The report — commissioned by Visit Tampa Bay, a destination marketing agency for Tampa and Hillsborough County — reveals the county’s tourism revenues grew by 67% over the past decade, led by the food and beverage sector, where sales rose $1.2 billion, or 28%. Hotel occupancy, revenue and employment also surged thanks to visitation that peaked with a record 24.5 million travelers coming to the area in 2019. All told, tourism added $6.9 billion into the Hillsborough County economy in 2019, a release for the report states. 

Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada, in the release, calls the numbers “bittersweet.” He adds, of course, there’s little tourism operators can do until the coronavirus pandemic gets under control. 

“Everybody’s just trying to get through it day by day and waiting to see when this finally comes to some end, in some semblance of getting close to normal,” Corrada tells Coffee Talk. He joined Visit Tampa Bay about seven years ago and has witnessed first-hand the tourism industry’s enormous growth. “As long as I've been with the organization, it’s been an incredible run of record-setting years as far as hotel revenue and bed tax collection.” 

The latest economic impact report, Corrada says, underscores the critical importance of tourism to the Tampa Bay economy — and the livelihoods of its residents. Prior to the pandemic, the industry supported more than 54,000 jobs, generated $2.5 billion in total wages and saved every household $840 in state and local taxes. 

The Tourism Economics report predicts the tourism sector will recoup approximately 75% of its losses in 2021. The full Tourism Economics report can be viewed at


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