September 27, 2021

Hotels gearing up for summer surge of families planning to travel as COVID restrictions lift

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — For years, Matthew Fastuca and his family have been visiting Treasure Island from Pittsburgh, PA.

“It’s been relieving to come here and feel like we’re trying to get back to normal,” said Fastuca.

Getting back to normal is a feeling that many travelers will be trying to achieve this summer. In fact, AAA says 62% of Floridians plan to travel this year.

Local hotels like the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island are already seeing a big boost.

“May is usually a time when the weekends are busy and the weekdays are slow. We’re busy every day. Every day is like a Saturday,” said Clyde Smith, Bilmar Beach Resort general manager. “We’ll run over 90% occupancy this month, which is 25% better than our best year in history.”

Smith says he believes travel numbers will continue to grow across the country following the new CDC recommendations that say people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance for the most part.

“If someone says they are vaccinated, we are taking their word for it on the honor system,” said Smith. “We still have about 50% of our guests though who choose to wear their masks, and it’s still mandated for our staff.”

Once inside the room, there isn’t much to worry about. The CDC recently changed its guidelines saying the risk of contracting COVID from touching a contaminated surface is less than 1 in 10,000. That means you can walk into a hotel room and feel safe.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, I think you should start to get your life back and traveling as you did before,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a professor for USF College of Public Health.

However, Unnasch says if you are visiting family again you should limit interaction with those who aren’t vaccinated especially if you have children who are too young to get the shot.

“You still want to take precautions around unvaccinated people like visiting grandparents who are particularly vulnerable,” said Unnasch.

But the new guidelines are giving people hope of getting back to normal and giving many families, like Fastuca’s, the summer escape they desperately need.

“I don’t want to go home,” said Fastuca.