SEBASTIAN, Fla. — Florida is a top tourist destination with its sandy beaches and stunning sites, but like almost everything else, hotels and resorts on the Treasure Coast are hoping 2021 is a restart.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Rebound South Florida
"We're starting to see people come back out. Our locals, it's good to see our locals back again, but there is still a lot of apprehension. Is it clean? Do we wear masks?" said Kimball Stadler, the director of marketing and sales at Capt Hirams Resort in Sebastian.
Capt Hirams is shifting its focus after feeling a big impact in 2020.
"We're trying to make sure that people are enjoying themselves, getting back to whatever the new normal is going to look like, and just getting a really good deal," Stadler said.
Tourism experts tell WPTV new numbers from STR, a private data company, show the occupancy rate across the Treasure Coast dropped to about 52% last year, which is down sharply from two-thirds full in 2019.
"The Treasure Coast outperformed the national average, but still it's not where we would ideally like to be," said Nerissa Okiye, Martin County's tourism director.
She said the national occupancy rate in 2020 hovered around 40%.
At Capt Hirams, the prime season is Valentine's Day through the end of May, so now the resort is offering new perks and deals from Sunday through Thursday to help the numbers bounce back.
"Anywhere from 25 [percent] to even in some cases 30 percent. Everything from a bottle of champagne parked right in your room when you get there to a six-pack of beer," Stadler said.
Tourism took one of the first hits, and it may be one of the slowest to come back. Many hotels are continuing to work on new social campaigns while still targeting the drive market and being safe and responsible.
"I think as more people get vaccinated, they're starting to think about traveling again and starting to be a little more active," Okiye said.