With Florida’s economy in the second phase of reopening, tourism has slowly begun to rebound, and along with it, travel.
Tampa International Airport recently reported it served 230,000 passengers in May, up dramatically from 86,000 in April and representing an increase of 167%. South of TIA, at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, meanwhile, several new nonstop flights have been announced. The list includes JetBlue adding service to Newark, N.J.; American Airlines adding flights to New York’s LaGuardia; and Frontier Airlines adding service to Chicago's O'Hare.
When numbers from the first week of June are factored in, TPA’s growth in passenger traffic has outpaced the national average. Officials are understandably excited about the data and say it heralds a quicker comeback for the region’s tourism-reliant economy than they originally expected.
“The energy at the airport today is so different from just a few weeks ago,” states Chris Minner, TPA’s executive vice president of marketing, in a statement posted on the airport’s website. “We’re seeing things pick back up with every passing week. Looking at upcoming flight schedules and future booking information, it’s clear there’s growing demand for summer travel.”
Minner says the Tampa Bay region, with its abundance of beaches, should benefit from travelers’ desire to vacation in warm places that have plenty of outdoor recreation options, in order to minimize their exposure to the coronavirus. He cites a Brookings Institution study that ranks the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region among the top 10 most resilient metro areas in the country.
“We know our region is resilient and that, for many people, Tampa Bay remains a dream destination,” Minner says.
Carriers are responding to the increase in demand: May saw 3,700 flights at TPA; in July, that number is projected to more than double, rising to 7,900, according to the statement.
Passengers, however, should not expect any decrease in safety and sanitation protocols. TPA, the statement says, will maintain enhanced cleaning of all facilities, install more social distancing signage and mandate face masks for all employees and tenants. Travelers and visitors to the airport are not required to wear masks but are strongly encouraged to. “People still need to fly, and our goal is to help travelers feel as safe and comfortable as possible,” Minner says.