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Martin County hotels could benefit from lifted beach restrictions

Last month, Martin County's hotel occupancy rates decreased 44%
Posted at 10:11 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-16 08:46:30-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — One industry keeping a close eye on beach reopenings is hotels.

They've taken a bit hit in recent weeks, and now they're bracing to miss out on Memorial Day profits.

The coronavirus pandemic hit during the high season, where they typically see the biggest profits.

As more restrictions begin to lift, they're hoping to slowly and safely start taking more bookings.

For travelers, beaches are one of the biggest draws to Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

Martin County Tourism Director Nerissa Okiye said only 26% of the county’s hotel room inventory has beach access right now.

That means hotels without beach access have one less way to attract even limited occupancy. Only residents have been able to access the beach.

Okiye said last month, Martin County's hotel occupancy rates went down 44%.

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That is not only a hit to the hotels, but to the county as a whole missing out on the bed tax revenue.

"What we found is that of every dollar spent by a tourist, 65 cents stays local," Okiye said. "So, not only is it impacting bed tax and what we can do to attract people to come here, it's impacting all of the businesses and the quality of life that we as residents get to experience. Sixty-five cents staying local out of every dollar is pretty impactful."

The gradual reopening of beaches might help attract more bookings for Memorial Day weekend.

Palm Beach County announced plans Friday to reopen beaches to the public without residency restrictions. Martin County will meet again Tuesday to discuss the possibility of lifting residency restrictions.

"There's a lot of pent up demand," Okiye said. "There are a lot of people who want to start moving and trying things, but we have to make sure we're doing things safely and we're following guidelines with that."

Short term rentals are still banned, but county administrators now have the ability to send a written request to lift the ban in their county, attaching a detailed safety plan.