FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – After two years of COVID uncertainty, South Florida is expecting a tourism rebound for spring break.
Starting in early March and lasting this year until mid-April, spring break typically draws thousands of students, families and tourists to the sunny weather and sandy beaches.
"The hospitality industry took the biggest hit during COVID," says Stacy Ritter the president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. "As it relates to the bed tax we lost tens of millions of dollars. The economic impact was billions."
The Miami area took a similar hit. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau tracks hotel occupancy.
According to their statistics, Miami Beach hotel room occupancy was rising before the pandemic. The hotel occupancy on Miami Beach dropped to 39.3% in 2020 from 88.4% in 2019. There was a comeback in 2021 with hotel room occupancy rising to 73.5%. Predictions are the room occupancy will hit 76.8% in March. An increase of 4.5%.
But visitors need to prepare to pay more.
Oscar Trevino, who is visiting Miami with his family, says he's learned this the hard way.
"It's costing 30% more between the hotel, rental car and restaurants – it's a lot more expensive," he says.
Inflation, disruptions in the supply chain and higher labor costs are some of the reasons for the jump in prices.
Hotel rooms will cost more in Broward County as well. The iconic Riverside Hotel on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale is fully booked.
"It will cost $50 to $70 more a night," says Executive Vice President Heiko Dobrikow.
Dobrikow says his restaurants are steadily busy and rooms are filling up fast. He says the only thorn in his side is staffing.
"We have 35 positions open, the most ever," he says.
Dobrikow says it is especially difficult to attract seasonal labor in 2022 because of skyrocketing housing costs in south Florida.
"If you are coming book now," says Stacy Ritter.
She says demand is high and south Florida has what visitors want.
"They want a warm weather destination and you can't get any beachier warm weather than this," she says.
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