Florida expects millions of spring breakers while facing major staff shortages

Spring Breakers Enjoy the Beach — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Jillian Cain Photography

While Florida saw a bleak 1,500 people a day in 2020 and about 65,000 Spring Breakers in 2021, it is estimated that 570,000 students will be on holiday in the Sunshine State this year. 

The University of South Florida and the majority of public schools in the Tampa Bay region, with the exception of Polk County schools, are on Spring Break beginning on Monday. Florida braces itself for an influx of tourists as millions of people are expected to visit.

This time of year is a huge economic booster for the Bay Area, but restaurants and hotels are worried about the increase in tourists as they are experiencing a labor shortage. Many are currently operating at just 50% staffing levels.

Hotels are still setting booking records this week. According to the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, certain hotel chains are trying to recruit more staff by offering pay raises, sign-on bonuses, all while bringing in temporary workers from around the world.

A Daytona Beach hotel owner is already warning tourists ahead of time that certain services may be cut short due to the lack of staffing.

“If you want service every day, if you need towels or linens, we’d be happy to do it for you. But if we can, if we can skip a few rooms because people don’t need that service, it just frees our people up to do other things,” said Rob Burnetti, the owner of The Shores Resort and Spa.

Some hotels have made the difficult decision to cut services such as daily room cleaning and have even raised room prices. 

However, it is not stopping people from coming to vacation in the Sunshine State. The CEO of Visit St. Pete Clearwater says tourism demand for the Tampa Bay area remains strong.

“You have the visibility of this area. Keep in mind, the amount of attention that was paid because of our sports teams that continue to be paid because of our sports teams. You have that element,” said Steve Hayes, the CEO of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater. “I also think you have people who have moved here over the last year that have come here, and now their friends are now saying, ‘Wait a minute, does that mean I can come to visit?’”

Some hotels are even saying they are sold out when rooms are still available. The average price for a Tampa Bay hotel room is currently $215 per night.

The Tampa Bay region isn’t the only area in Florida seeing an influx of Spring Breakers. Thousands of students packed Miami’s beaches this weekend and are expected to celebrate in record numbers now that they are free of COVID-19 mandates.

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