Tourism has a significant impact on the economics of Brevard County and the effects of Covid-19 will be felt over the next several years.

In a recent study published by Rockport Analytics, 28,000 local jobs could be attributed to tourism in 2018, representing 10.6% of all jobs in Brevard County and placing tourism 4th in revenue generation behind healthcare, retail and manufacturing. Tourism spending was estimated at $1.8 billion in 2018 in the study, which resulted in over $400 million in local, state and federal taxes being paid.

Total visitor spending and wages in Brevard is nearly $2.6 billion. If business is down 30-40%, which is what tourism officials are estimating, that represent a loss of about $1 billion. For every $1 generated by tourist spending, .66 cents is returned to the local economy. If it weren’t for taxes generated by tourists, every household in Brevard would have to pay an additional $364 a year to make up this difference.

Space Coast tourism

Revenue Loss Impact

The loss of that revenue is going to be a hangover felt by businesses and workers for many years to come. Right now, economists estimate that it may take from 18 months to up to 3 years before former business levels return. The impact on tourism by Covid-19 not only effects our budget, but also has negatively impacted hotels, retail stores, attractions, restaurants and anywhere else tourists regularly patronize.

In the month of April alone, the Space Coast lost 22,000 jobs. Hotels were shut down to tourists during April and most of May, and this really hurt our local economy as well. The April report on hotel occupancy and revenue showed hotel occupancy down by over 70% and revenue down by 80% compared to April of last year.

However, in May, just in time for Memorial Day weekend, hotels reopened to visitors, restrictions were relaxed at restaurants and some key attractions began reopening with new guidelines and protocols in place.

Hope on the Horizon

Entertainment venues such as Brevard Zoo and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex are requiring face coverings and the use of timed entry along with social distancing of at least six feet.

The Zoo, for example, has signs reminding visitors of the 6-feet distance by comparing it to the length of a jaguar. They also have paw prints on the ground as markers in some areas. At Kennedy Space Center, some attractions such as pre-shows, bus tours and launch viewing packages have been suspended to help with social distancing. To make up for that, if you buy a ticket you will automatically be given a second one to use in 2021, when they hope all experiences will be up and running as they once before did.

Hotels and restaurants have also updated their cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and many staff members are wearing masks and gloves when interacting with guests. Restaurants have also continued with limited seating to observe social distancing, and many are still offer take-out or delivery.

While some cruise lines are targeting August 1st to return to sailing, this is still a tentative date. Port Canaveral has already started working on updated safety guidelines that include social distancing signage, daily health assessments for staff, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and the addition of touchless technology and plexiglass partitions. Along with this, phased reopening of both Jetty Park and Exploration Tower began in June.

Launches remain a major attraction for Space Coast tourism. The Launch America SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch attempts in May helped the local economy by generating an estimated $2 to $3 million from visitors. The average party that stayed overnight spent about $1,065 and individuals spends about $350 each. About half stay in a hotel, and about a third rent other accommodations (vacation rental, B&B Airbnb, campground, etc).

Titusville’s Tourism Development tax collections have increased 40% from 2016 to 2019 as it rises in the ranks of locations where tourists stay overnight for launches. Even day trippers have an impact, spending about $144, based on a 2019 study conducted by Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism.

Better than Before

I believe, that in time, we will come back and be stronger than ever. The Space Coast is an amazing travel destination with so many things to offer. And the exciting and expanding space program really differentiates us from any of the other beach destinations. Where else can you go to a beautiful beach and watch a rocket launch?

Shop Local, Buy Local, Stay Local

The Space Coast Office of Tourism is encouraging residents to help reinvigorate the economy by patronizing local restaurants, attractions and retail stores. Experience your home as a” tourist in your backyard,” appreciate places you’ve missed and enjoy new discoveries. By doing this, we can re-launch the Space Coast and help keep local establishments in business. Visitor or local, you’ll find there’s “Space for you Here.”

Peter Cranis

Peter Cranis is the Executive Director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism and a Brevard native. For more information, or call 321-433-4470.