WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — February is peak tourism season in Palm Beach County. It is a time that typically brings hundreds of millions of dollars to the area.
However, new variants of the coronavirus and talks about possible travel restrictions have some tourism leaders concerned.
Canopy by Hilton Hotel is one of the newest hotels in downtown West Palm Beach, opening May 21, 2020.
Jen Garrett, the lead sales enthusiast at the hotel, said opening in a pandemic posed its challenges.
"It was difficult. We had recently laid off a huge percentage of our staff. The few of us that were left really had to get together and work super hard to open this place," Garrett said.
After a somewhat rocky start, she said sales picked up, initially seeing local and state visitors.
"The weekends were really kind of our strength and still continue to be at this point," Garrett said.
Jorge Pesquera, the President Discover the Palm Beaches, the county's tourism and marketing agency, said they are gearing up to release a marketing campaign in hopes of attracting more people to the destination.
"We are in the middle of season, and it's certainly going to be a season unlike any other that we’ve seen in recent years of decade for sure," Pesquera said.
There was a 41 percent drop in hotel revenue when comparing December 2020 to December 2019, according to the county’s tourist development council.
However, non-hotel single-family rentals are up 8 percent compared to the first quarter of 2019.
"We see positive trends. We saw reports earlier this week that 81 percent of travelers are looking to travel within the next six months," Pesquera said. "We have been trending up for now a number of months."
Garrett hopes the trends continue on a positive track, but she said travel restrictions could set them back.
"If we go through shutdowns again, it will be devastating for our staff that we've been finally able to bring back and businesses coming into the hotel. It's definitely detrimental to our entire organization," Garrett said.