PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The Players Championship tees off next week at Sawgrass. It is a welcome rebound after last year's cancellation.
"This destination will be a great spot for all the people who have pent-up desire to travel," said Joe Finnegan of St. Johns County.
Finnegan owns the St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine. Tourism is his main money-maker.
The pandemic forced him to close for two months last year, and he is taking aim at a better outcome this spring.
"That is how we support ourselves as do many residents in St. Johns County either directly or indirectly," Finnegan said.
Tourism is more than a $2 billion business in St. Johns County. When the Republican National Convention pulled out of Jacksonville, nearby counties also felt the impact.
"Both sectors of our association were hit very hard," said Nicole Chapman, who works for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. Chapman said restaurants and hotels are on the upswing after 2020.
"We are waiting to see how many of those people are local or out of town. But, time will tell as the event kicks off soon," Chapman explained, referring to the occupancy rates during The Players Championship.
Finnegan was at capacity last fall and winter. He hopes 2021 is a mulligan of sorts, a redo after a rough 2020.
In fact, he predicts if COVID-19 cases continue to decrease, he will see an increase in consumer confidence.
"We are going to be over-run with visitors over the next six to eight months," Finnegan suggests.