Southwest Florida prepares for spring break. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Spring break could be a boost to Southwest Florida economy

Spring break is in full swing across Southwest Florida.

The Tourist Development Council is hoping for a big boom in revenue that will help boost the local economy.

The beaches were forced to closed last year during the peak of the pandemic.

In 2020, much was unknown about the virus and the goal was to keep spring breakers off of the beaches. But, now with more knowledge about the virus people know what they need to do to stay safe.

In 2020, March’s bed tax numbers are down by 33% compared to March of 2019. It got worse as the pandemic halted travel and vacations. Bed tax numbers in April of 2020 dropped by 88% compared to April 2019.

The bed tax is a 5% tourist tax collected from hotels and short-term rentals. The money is used toward beach and shoreline maintenance and payments for the Lee County Sports Complex and JetBlue Park, along with maintenance for other facilities.

Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman said he is confident this year’s numbers will bring a boost to the economy, and more importantly, people will feel safe.

It’s up to the consumer to behave in a way where they feel safe, he said.

“I think every business and restaurant are taking the precautions that they feel are necessary for their customers,” Hamman said. “If you feel comfortable with going all the way in and having gone to a restaurant … you have the freedom to do that. And if you don’t feel comfortable with that you have the freedom to stay home or to go to situations where you do feel comfortable.”

According to Hamman, a survey by the Tourist Development Council showed that visitors feel safe spending time in Southwest Florida.

Local hotels and restaurants are anticipating large crowds compared to this time last year as spring break kicks of this weekend. They have rolled out safety measures they hope will attract more visitors.

During this time of year, Southwest Florida beaches are packed with spring breakers but that could change since many universities are canceling their spring break.

Instead, more families and adults are making their way to beach shores.

Lois Croft, with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said some hotels could be booked at around 90% full unlike pre-pandemic times when they would be sold out.

Regardless, those businesses are working hard to get those customers back and make them feel safe.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has put together a seal of commitment program, which sets a standard for sanitation and safety.

“We’re really doing a good job with our establishments to make sure that the customers feel really safe,” Croft said.

Reporter:Gail Levy
Writer:Melissa Montoya
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