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WUSF's coverage of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Feb. 7, 2021.

Tampa Bay Hotels Prepare For Super Bowl Visitors

Outside of the Mariott in downtown Tampa
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Outside of the Mariott in downtown Tampa

Local hotels and businesses get prepared for a rise in tourists as the Super Bowl comes to town.

Super Bowl LV is coming to Tampa -- but between the COVID-19 pandemic and the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers set to play in the big game, there is a lot of uncertainty for hotels.

Santiago Corrada, President and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, says the February 7 game would normally bring tourists from all over the country, but this year is different.

“The interesting dynamic (is) this is the first time...that the hometown team plays in the hometown stadium. So it'll be interesting to see how that develops,” said Corrada.

“I can tell you that after we won the game on Sunday, I became a very popular man in my family with relatives and friends that maybe don't live in a beautiful place like Tampa and now want to come and be a part of all the excitement.”

With people not being able to travel much during the pandemic, Corrada hopes that locals can enjoy the Super Bowl as if they were tourists in the city. This, he says, would help both the hospitality business and the mood around the community.

“If they can find a hotel room, go out and enjoy themselves at a restaurant, catch some of the events that are going on, all of those things would be really fantastic to make sure that we are going ahead and enjoying being the hometown team playing in our hometown stadium,” he said.

Before the pandemic, hotel occupancy in the greater Tampa Bay region this time of year would generally be around 70 percent. However, it’s currently at 53 percent.

“We're doing well compared to other parts of the state,” said Corrada.

With the Bucs’ opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs saying that they would not arrive in Tampa until the day before the game, this puts some uncertainty on how many of their fans will come to town. However, Corrado says he still believes NFL fans will show up.

“It's interesting, we are veterans (after hosting) four other Super Bowls, and we've certainly studied Super Bowls,” he said. “We know that a great number of NFL fans, not just team fans, come to a host city for a Super Bowl...not everyone who comes to a Super Bowl city has a Super Bowl game ticket.

“So we expect fans to come not just from the Kansas City Chiefs, but other teams that are just NFL fans.”

According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, a number of hotels are hiring more workers after having to lay them off when the virus first struck. That includes some hotels that are currently at 20 to 30 percent occupancy but hoping for a significant increase leading up to the game.

No matter how many people come to town, Corrada says they can expect a fun time that addresses concerns about the pandemic.

“We've got a lot of local elected officialsthat have been pushing safety, safety, safety, safety. So we are a pretty safe destination to visit,” said Corrada.

“That means everything, whether you're coming into the airport, or you're at the port, or you're at any of our attractions like Busch Gardens, the zoo, the aquarium, any of our museums, the hotels, our restaurants certainly have to abide by the local ordinances. It's a very safe environment.”

Devonta Davis is the WUSF Noble Radio News Intern for the spring 2021 semester.
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