SARASOTA, Fla., Jan. 11 (UPI) — The cold snap has put a major chill on Florida’s biggest industry, as tourists are staying away in droves, business owners say.
The marked slowdown in business for hotels, restaurants and retailers comes at a critical time for the statewide tourism industry, which takes in 30 percent of its annual revenue in the first three months of the year, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. Tourism has a $65 billion annual economic impact statewide, the newspaper said.
“This weather hurts. It really hurts,” said Ed Chiles, owner of The Sandbar and two other beachfront restaurants on Anna Maria Island on the Gulf of Mexico. “We kind of live and die by weather out here on the island, and when it is as cold as it has been, it has a significant effect on our gross sales.”
The National Weather Service warned of a hard freeze for South Florida Sunday night and Monday morning, The Miami Herald reported. And forecasters predicted temperatures would drop below freezing across the Gulf coast and in northern and central Florida Monday night.
David Teitelbaum said he had no vacancies during the holidays at his Tortuga Inn Beach Resort, Tradewinds Resort and SeaSide Resort in Bradenton Beach. But with the cold weather, he told the Herald-Tribune, business has “totally died.”
“When you get cold like this, it does hurt you because so much of our business is drive-in business and they know the weather,” he said. “They don’t need to get in their cars and drive to get frost-bitten.”
Virginia Haley, president of the Sarasota Convention & Visitor’s bureau, said the latest cold spell recalled one from nine years ago.
“In 2001 it ended up being one of our best tourist seasons because it was so much colder up north,” she said.
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