The tourism industry in Florida lost millions thanks to the red tide

The study can provide some insight into the damage this year’s red tide has had on the local economy.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – As Tampa Bay and much of southwest Florida begin the process of recovering from this summer’s devastating red tide surge, researchers have estimated the damage the harmful algal bloom has caused to the region’s tourism industry in 2018.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences found that between major bloom events that occurred from 2017 to early 2019, revenues were down across the board for industries such as charter boat fishing, marine recreation, and Airbnb reservations in Southwest Florida.

Charter operations saw their sales decline by 61% at the height of the red tide in 2018 – sales would fall by 28% for the rest of the year. Watersports reported an average drop in sales of 36% in the event of a red tide, which would drop to 15% the rest of the year.

However, it is not just recreational boating that has been affected during this period.

RELATED: UF Researchers Study Whether Flies Carry Red Tide Toxins

Tourists visiting Southwest Florida will also spend money on local goods and amenities that, at first glance, may not seem directly related to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but depend on its health. Things like going to the beach, kayaking, and fishing.

Researchers say that when water samples showed concentrations of the red tide organism Karenia brevis were above 100,000 cells per litre, demand for Airbnb bookings dropped dramatically. According to the researchers, the drop had a direct impact on local spending.

In total, the tourism industry lost more than $184 million in revenue.

The study can provide some insight into the damage this year’s red tide has had on the local economy. Many Tampa Bay businesses have already had to survive a year of COVID just to run into one of the worst red tide outbreaks seen in years, with Pinellas County killing more than 3.6 million pounds of marine life dead.

However, conditions have improved in recent weeks. Daily samples from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission show the red tide is still impacting parts of the bay, but not to the degree of last month.

Last week, Karenia brevis was detected in 67 samples. Concentrations of efflorescence were observed in 35 samples: six from Pinellas County, five from Manatee County and 24 from Sarasota County.

Pinellas County saw mostly low to medium levels of red tide off its coast with a few high level spots, while Manatee and Sarasota counties saw medium to high levels of algal blooms.

To report a dead fish to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), call the hotline at 800-636-0511. For more resources, click here.

Red tide is one of water’s deadliest enemies, and it occurs nearly every summer along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Some years, however, are worse than others.

RELATED: Red tide limits fishing in Tampa Bay

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