Southwest Florida tourism lost $ 184 million in 2018 red tide
A new report from the University of Florida describes the economic fallout for the maritime industry and tourism in Southwest Florida during the 2018 red tide that closed beaches and shut down some businesses.
Researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences have made a point of declining income that charter boat fishing, marine recreation and Airbnb operations have seen in due to the harmful proliferation. The study covered the counties of Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Pinellas and Sarasota.
“We focused on the Southwest Florida region because that’s where this particular bloom was the most prominent and lasted the longest,” said Christa Court, director of the analysis program at the economic impact of UF / IFAS. “It is also the area of Florida that is generally affected most often by harmful algal blooms, especially red tide.”
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Boat rental and nautical leisure companies
Boat rental businesses declined an average of 61% when the red tide was present, the report says, while water recreation businesses, such as outlets that sell boating and fishing supplies, recorded an average decline of 36% in their income.
“People tend to think of commercial fishing and the impact of the red tide,” said Andrew Ropicki, Florida Sea Grant marine economist. “These charter and rental operations are a key segment for coastal communities, and they have been hit hard.”
Eric Alexander, who operates Team Lobo rental boats at the Port O Call marina near Tin City in Naples, said the loss of income during the 2018 red tide was significant and he feared the company continues to operate.
“The large number of dead fish was mind-blowing to say the least,” he said. “I don’t remember how many trips we lost, but probably at least 25-30% for that year and that was carried over to 2019.”
To escape the flowers, Alexander said he had to travel further offshore and, for the most part, start offering half-day tours.
“The half day was really the bread and butter of charter travel. A 4 hour trip just 10 miles from the coast, ”he said. “But you couldn’t catch anything in five of those 10 miles. This means that all fisheries have been affected.
At the start of the UF / IFAS Economic Impact Project, Court said they went out to speak with locals in the Red Tide region and the report’s findings were in line with what they had heard.
The effects on Airbnb operators
In addition to rental boats and water recreation companies, the report analyzed the effects observed by Airbnb operators.
Researchers estimated that, based on a review of Airbnb reservations, the tourism industry lost around $ 184 million.
“The study considered Airbnb property bookings as an indicator of visitor spending across the region,” a press release said.
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The report states that for every water quality test that showed high red tide concentrations, the “average daily rate for Airbnb properties in a county was reduced by $ 0.446” or 44.6 cents. So if a county were found to have multiple tests showing high concentrations that figure would increase.
This number is specific to the 2018 bloom in Southwest Florida. If the agencies produced more water quality tests during a bloom, the court said the results of studies like this would be more accurate.
The survey showed that there are significant economic impacts in the event of a red tide, Court said, and more detailed data can help economists answer more specific questions.
“Because (the red tide) is so localized and the period of time so short, the impact can be masked by the data when it is only reported once a year or at the county level,” a- she declared.
Harmful algal blooms only affect part of the county for part of the year, she said, and these localized impacts might not show up in annual data.
“Tourists have always come and done something inland, so the overall number doesn’t seem to have changed,” she said. “It’s a caveat not to just look at trends in the data and blame any changes on a particular event. We need to examine it in more detail. “
During the investigation, one of the most important things the researchers heard was that even when the red tide left the area, people still weren’t spending money with these companies, Ropicki said.
“People still weren’t coming, and we saw it in the results,” he said.
Alexander saw this lag effect and said it took a long time to wear off.
“It didn’t go away instantly, it took time, months and months,” he said. We were still fighting it in 2019. ”
One of the first questions from his clients would be whether the red tide was present.
“People canceled or decided not to come because of it. The lag effect was awesome, ”he said.
The report says that even after the red tide left the area, reported revenues were 28% below average for rental boats and 15% below average for water recreation businesses.
Since then, the Lobo team has increased their trips to the day and 6 hours. It cost the company to equip the boats with the necessary equipment to make these longer trips, but Alexander said people are willing to spend the extra money and the catches are much better.
With a new bloom looming north of Tampa Bay, Alexander is worried again.
“I pray we don’t have another one like ’18, because this one was mean,” he said.