Miami (WFOR) — Even with tight COVID-19 restrictions and a scaled-down fan experience, football fans will be flocking to Tampa for a chance to be part of Super Bowl 55.
But the city’s metro area, like almost everywhere else around the country, is home to a sagging economy because of the pandemic.
“The bottom fell out. We had conventions, events like WrestleMania scheduled to come, the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. All those things went away immediately,” said Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.
Corrada, the President of Visit Tampa Bay, says county hotel occupancy is down by about 20 percent, and the city has been on the receiving end of poor timing.
Tampa’s hockey team, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in September but played its games in Canada.
Their baseball team, the Rays, made it to the World Series, but those games were played in Texas.
“When you think tourism, you’re not just thinking hotels. You know, you’re thinking retail, you’re thinking attractions, you’re thinking food and beverage. All of those are connected,” said Corrada.
Troy Manthey has been doing business here on Tampa’s waterfront for two decades and says he has been drawing visitors looking to take in the sights from the bay.
“It’s gonna be the shot in the arm all of us need here in Tampa. It’s vital from a cash flow standpoint. Bringing in revenue during an absolutely critical time,” said Manthey.
At the oldest Spanish restaurant in the country, they’re staying optimistic.
“We went through the Spanish Flu. We went through World War I, World War II, we’ve been through the Great Depression. We’ve survived. We’ve learned from that,” said Columbia Restaurant Group President Richard Gonzmart.
Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart has an education in survival. His great grandfather opened Columbia during the Theodore Roosevelt administration.
With much of the country in the dead of winter, city officials are banking on pictures of sunny Tampa.
They say it will be the best advertising used to entice future visitors post-pandemic.
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