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The Tampa Bay area is bracing for spring break and spring training

An aerial picture of Clearwater Beach.
Pinellas County Marketing and Communications
Beaches are expected to be full to pre-pandemic levels over the break.

Florida’s tourism industry is on pace to surpass 2019 pre-pandemic numbers, with spring break set to break records in the greater Tampa Bay region.

Florida’s tourism industry is rebounding after a couple of slow years brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite a dip in tourism, hotel occupancy for the greater Tampa Bay region has been one at or near the top in the nation during that time.

And, with spring break and now spring training getting underway, that trend is unlikely to slow down anytime soon -- despite other travel destinations around the country opening back up.

“I’m bullish on the fact that I think we’ll continue to do well,” said Steve Hayes, President and CEO of Visit St.Pete/Clearwater. “Keep in mind, we had very close to a record breaking year in [2021], and that was without - for the most part - any international travel.”

Economic uncertainty does not seem to be hindering Florida’s tourism at all, according to Hayes.

He says even though inflation and gas prices are high, the Bay area is still “looking at record volume.”

In addition to the state’s beaches and parks, visitors will now have the ability to watch their favorite baseball team. MLB ended its lockout Thursday and will hold an abbreviated spring training in Florida starting March 18.

Baseball players practice on a diamond.
Victoria Crosdale
WUSF Public Media
The Philadelphia Phillies take the field for their first day of spring training March 11, 2022, at BayCare Park in Clearwater.

Spring training has been a staple of Floridian tourism for many years. According to the Florida Sports Foundation, spring training attracted 1.4 million fans in 2019, the last year that a full Grapefruit League season was played.

Hayes said that local businesses will undoubtedly benefit from the games, especially after missing out for two straight years.

“There are businesses that are very near to the ballparks that depend on spring training,” Hayes added. “The fans coming in to watch those games and the fact that they're going to be playing again … certainly helps those businesses."

I am a WUSF Rush Family/USF Zimmerman School Digital News Intern for the spring 2022 semester; this is my second internship with the station.