By Kristen Chavez
When I think about Florida, I immediately think about fun theme parks, warm sandy beaches and WCI in Orlando. This may seem short-sighted and naÃ¯ve, but actually tourism is Florida's top economic driver. According to "VisitFlorida" 127 million people visited Florida in 2018, adding $85.9 billion to the economy, with tourists landing in all of Florida's 67 counties.
So, how is COVID-19 impacting Florida's economy?
According to a recent survey conducted by the Florida Chamber:
- There are roughly 2.7 million small businesses in Florida.
- 60.8 percent of 4,842 small businesses surveyed revealed extreme concern over the Florida economy.
- Only 2.8% of Florida's small businesses indicated that pandemic has had no impact on their business.
- 60 percent of Florida's new jobs since 2012 are created by companies with fewer than 100 employees.
- 45.4 percent of small businesses in Florida said they were extremely concerned about their ability to operate in the future.
Sheltering in place can take a toll. Cabin fever is defined as, "distressing claustrophobic irritability or restlessness experienced when a person, or group, is stuck at an isolated location or in confined quarters for an extended time. We are nomadic by nature and crave social interaction with the ability to explore and experience new things. It is obvious we all could use a change and some fresh air.
Can we realistically support tourism while attempting to reduce the spread of COVID-19? Florida tourist sites, such as visitflorida.com have focused their attention on activities like camping and visiting "hidden gems" such as St. George Island, Caladesi Island State Park, Santa Rosa Beach and Dry Tortugas National Park. These opportunities allow for families to build wonderful memories, staying together while distanced from those around them.
For States like Florida, the pandemic and a resulting decrease in travel have had a tremendous impact on their economy and those that own and operate small businesses. During these times, it is challenging to stay safe while still allowing your family the opportunity to build new memories and experiences. A necessity is the mother of invention. We cannot give up on finding new and creative ways to support our local businesses while going back to having good ole fashioned fun.