STUART, Fla. — Tourism has taken a massive hit during the coronavirus pandemic, but now the focus is staying local.
Officials in Martin County just launched a new campaign to help struggling businesses and boost consumer confidence.
Patty O'Connell has been a small business owner for 13 years, but 2020 has been the most challenging by far.
"It's certainly has been difficult," O'Connell said.
Her shop, Gumbo Limbo Coastal Chic and Kidz store in downtown Stuart, closed for six weeks at the beginning of the pandemic.
Most stores are back open, but foot traffic has dropped with coronavirus cases still on the rise in Florida.
"A closure of our businesses again by the governor or having individual cases is disastrous, and I don't think most businesses can survive that," O'Connell said.
Officials said tourism in Martin County dropped 37 percent in June, so Discover Martin County launched a new local campaign called "Martin Together" to highlight businesses and boost consumer confidence.
"Businesses take a pledge, and part of that goes through recommended guidelines of sanitation and cleaning and what they're doing," said Martin County tourism director Nerissa Okiye.
Once the businesses follow CDC guidelines and take the pledge, their name will be posted in a directory for shoppers to see.
"That really helps us, and 'Martin Together' has been very strong. We've had comments from people saying to us they've seen our pledge, and that makes them feel good. Anything we can do we're going to do," O'Connell said.
Discover Martin County already has 30 to 40 partners and is encouraging more businesses to sign up. The county is also highlighting businesses on social media.