- May 28, 2022
Visit Tampa Bay, a destination marketing agency for Tampa and Hillsborough County, watched with frustration as the coronavirus pandemic caused the region’s top attractions to shutter during peak tourism season. Closing their doors were Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, the Florida Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, TopGolf, the Glazer Children’s Museum — and the list goes on.
The agency itself suffered alongside the amenities it promotes. President and CEO Santiago Corrada says Visit Tampa Bay slashed its workforce, from 61 to 21 people, and cut remaining staff members’ salaries by at least 20%.
“The lesson we all learned from [COVID-19] is how fragile things are,” Corrada tells Coffee Talk. “We’ve had to become the sales and marketing organization for many of our private partners because they've laid off significant amounts of personnel.”
But Tampa Bay tourism has slowly come back to life. Busch Gardens and Adventure Island reopened June 11, capping a two-week period that saw many attractions begin to again welcome guests, albeit with precautions — such as drastically reduced capacity — that have been implemented in accordance with CDC guidelines, as well as recommendations issued by Tampa General Hospital’s Infectious Disease Prevention Team.
The new normal for hospitality and tourism businesses, Visit Tampa Bay says, includes thermal monitoring stations at points of entry, on-premise EMTs, online reservations made in advance, masked staff, plexiglass shields, self-swipe credit card readers, hand sanitizer stations and physical distancing signage. Restaurants will be expected to provide curbside pickup and expand their open-air patio dining. Retailers, also, shouldn’t end curbside pickup service anytime soon.
“Safeguarding Tampa Bay’s locally owned businesses and attractions is the key to ensuring traveler confidence,” Corrada states in a news release. “Tampa Bay is welcoming guests, and we are taking that invitation very seriously and responsibly. We fully expect travel to look and feel a little different than it did before, and communicating those changes is the key to creating memorable experiences that we know travelers need.”