Pinellas County hotels scramble to keep up with tourism

CLEARWATER, Fla .– Whether it’s catching waves in the warm water, cruising the coast, or just taking off their masks in public, people everywhere are heading to the county’s white sand beaches. by Pinellas.

“We saw a resurgence of return travel to our communities in mid-spring, really around mid-March, where we were actually beating our numbers, not from 2020 but from 2019,” explained Visit St. Pete Clearwater President and CEO Steve Hayes.

ABC Action News met tourist Beth Poole walking on Clearwater Beach. She and her husband were coming from Springdale, Arkansas for the first time in a few years.

“We probably come here every two or three years. With COVID we didn’t come last year, but now since that, with Governor De Santis making this state a free state again, it was the perfect choice for a place to come, ”Poole said with enthusiasm in his visor.

Tens of thousands of people seem to have the same idea.

In May alone, Pinellas hotels attracted slightly more customers and even more revenue this year than in 2019 before the pandemic hit.

  • May 2021
    • Occupancy: 77%
    • RevPAR (New Revenue Per Available Room): $ 139.32
  • May 2020
    • Occupancy: 43%
    • ADR: $ 112.48
    • RevPAR: $ 51.40
  • May 2019
    • Occupancy: 75%
    • RevPAR: $ 112.39

But the reality is that hotels are struggling to keep up.

Walking to a few hotels around 2 p.m. on a Wednesday, ABC Action News saw receptions inundated with more people than they could help. The halls had suitcases stacked and pushed as far behind the desk as possible. The phones rang and the employees answered and said, “Sorry, we have no availability. “

“We’ve been probably 95% occupied here for over a month anyway, a few months,” exclaimed Mike Shippee. He manages Pelican Pointe Resort on Clearwater Beach.

“It was very difficult because there is no help anywhere, I cannot find help,” he added.

Forget about early check-in, these hotels struggle to get people to rooms on time. We encountered a group of tourists from Chicago standing outside.

“I’m from the suburbs of Chicago and I’m staying at Pelican Pointe and we still haven’t found our room yet,” Mike Lilly said around 3 p.m. on check-in.

The group were still in a good mood, excited to be at the beach, no masks, adding that they understood and would wait as long as needed.

But anyone who has traveled anywhere lately has probably noticed that the typical hotel stay is also very different.

“If you ask, they’ll deliver towels to your room, but you have to ask for them,” described Poole, who was staying at SpringHill Suites by the beach. “They will come and get your trash if you ask. They will clean your room, if you give them 24 hours notice the breakfast bar which is listed as a convenience is really a place to go, pick up things in the microwave and take them to your room.

Shippee said it was disheartening not to live up to his reputation for getting people moving and getting into bedrooms early. He said this as he rushed to clean the rooms himself.

“I’m pretty much looking for help – I say, ‘Do you have any housekeeping experience? You are engaged! And I give them the papers, so fill it out and come back that day. I say, ‘Okay, thank you very much’ and I can’t hear them or see them again, ”he explained.

It’s not just housekeeping, Shippee said this location and the other two Sunsational Beach Rental properties on Treasure Island are also lacking in front desk, grounds and maintenance staff. Even after increasing his salary scale to a position already with benefits, the workers do not show up.

The owners are now offering a $ 750 60-day login bonus that Shippee hopes will make a difference.

However, alongside its listing on Indeed.com, there are over 1,300 similar hotel positions in the county – offering four to five dollars above minimum wage, with sign-up bonuses, and now hiring.

When asked what happens when even the incentives don’t work, President of Visit St. Pete Clearwater said if he knew the answer, he would likely be the highest paid consultant.

“I think part of it is, you know, there has to be an appeal for people to want to go back to work and then and bring people back into this exciting industry,” Hayes suggested.

On June 26, the Florida Department of Economics (WD) opportunity to end additional weekly benefits of $ 300 under the Federal Weekly Unemployment Compensation program in an effort to get more people back to work .

DEO press secretary Andrew Nixon told ABC Action News in a statement:

“The ministry does not have data to support the reasons for the statewide labor shortages.

On May 12, 2021, the department launched the Florida Return to Work Initiative. The initiative aims to encourage Floridians to return to the workforce, help employers attract job seekers and continue to fuel the state’s economic growth after the pandemic. As part of the WD’s Back to Work initiative and another key step the department is taking to encourage Floridians to return to work, Florida will end its participation in the federal unemployment compensation program by pandemic, the additional payment of $ 300 per week from the FPUC, effective June 26. , 2021.

WD also encourages Floridians interested in a new career path, or in need of assistance in finding employment, to turn to CareerSource Florida for assistance. CareerSource Florida can help job seekers explore new employment opportunities, provide workforce and job training skills, and provide career advancement assistance.

Andrew G. Nixon, Press Secretary, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

When asked if they were ready for summer, Shippee replied, “As ready as we will be, yes.”

If you would like to apply for a position at Pelican Pointe, you can apply here on Indeed.com, under Sunsational Beach Rentals Clearwater location. You can also find hundreds of other hotel positions on Indeed.


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Coy Lewallen

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