Naples business hopes tourism returns sooner than State economist predicts

Businesses are trying to keep busy and hope to help their bottom line. Since the pandemic began, businesses are working to get their money back after they lost it from a lack of tourism. Florida’s top economist warns it could take one to two years for the industry to recover.

Businesses in downtown Naples hope and need a bounce back to be sooner Thursday.

We spoke to Ava Bellon at The Blue Mussel gift shop. Bellon says, if business does not start picking up soon, they might have had to shut down. The shop has been serving customers on 5th Avenue for almost 60 years.

“It was one of the original gift shops in Naples,” Bellon said.

They’ve been through their fair share of storms and red tide trying to ruin business, but nothing has compared to the pandemic.

“It’s been a challenge,” Bellon said. “It’s been a year, something unprecedented.”

That’s why they were relieved when they saw the streets of 5th Ave. pick up for the holidays.

“From what we saw before Christmas, it’s going to be good,” Bellon said.

Amy Baker, the coordinator for the Office of Economic & Demographic Research, says the tourism industry still has a way to go.

“After there is a widespread distribution of the vaccine, it still will take a year to two years for the tourism industry to recover,” Baker said publicly.

Baker says there will be longer lasting effects in the Florida because of how vulnerable and sensitive the tourism economy is here.

While visitors agree the vaccine rollout should help tourism, they also agree getting back to what might be considered normal is also still a bit far from reach.

“I think it will give people a lot more confidence if they have the vaccine,” Nancy Faselt said. “I think it will be a while before everyone feels comfortable.”

Businesses are staying optimistic.

“Let’s hope this spring is when everything will happen and get back to reality and living a normal life,” Bellon said.

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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