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Is Vero Beach tourism on the road back?


There wasn’t a parking place to be had along Ocean Drive during the sunny part of the Memorial Day weekend, and the parking lots of the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa, Holiday Inn, Costa d’Este and the Driftwood were close to full.

Is this a sign that Vero Beach tourism, after a couple of months of being shutdown by the coronavirus pandemic, is starting to make a comeback?

The cautious answer would seem to be, “Yes!”

These hotels and many smaller, boutique hotels on the island saw a substantial increase in guest activity over the holiday weekend, and several reported they were booked to capacity.  Most of the weekend guests appeared to be Floridians.

With beaches still closed in some parts of South Florida, visitors from there and elsewhere were willing to make the drive to Vero to de-stress and dip their toes in the sea. And those that ventured out of the hotels to visit seaside shops and restaurants now open again were for the most part good about observing social distancing.

Talking with visitors, most of those who had come here this past weekend appeared to have driven from other parts of the state. One visitor from Central Florida staying at Costa d’Este said that even though she was just 30 minutes from home, she just needed to get out of the house. “We just wanted a little away time,” she said.

The scene was much the same at the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa. A young couple with son and puppy in tow made the trip up from Fort Lauderdale because they felt much safer spending their weekend in Vero than in South Florida, which has been far harder hit by COVID-19.

Vero Beach Hotel & Spa general manager Awet Sium said the hotel was 80 percent full over the weekend.

“Things have gotten busier in the past few weeks,” he said, adding that he’s now hoping for a strong summer season.

Sea Spray Inn owner Leslie Jones said they had been sold out on the weekends the last few weeks, and “I’m starting to see the reservations for June, July and August now.”

Notably absent this year, however, are the Europeans, Jones said. “People don’t realize how many Europeans come to Vero.”

Over at the Prestige Hotel on South Beach, Edyta Zachariasz, general manager, said they are really feeling the impact of European travel restrictions. With more than 60 percent of their guests normally hailing from places like Germany and France, she said the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on her business.

The Caribbean Court Boutique Hotel was fully booked for the holiday weekend, according to owner Boris Gonzalez.

Guests have been primarily Floridians with a few from Georgia and the Carolinas, according to Gonzalez.

“We were surprised,” said Gonzalez about the calls they’ve been getting. “We didn’t think we would be this busy. It’s terrific. Things are starting to rev up.”

South Beach Place is completely booked for the next two weekends, said manager Nikki Barroso. Most of her guests are from Miami, with a few from other Florida locales. “We’re not booked for the summer, yet. I think people are waiting to see how things are going,” Barroso added.

The Islander Inn, a longtime Ocean Drive institution, said it was 80 percent full over the weekend.

If things are able to keep opening and more restrictions are lifted here, those in the hospitality industry are hopeful things will continue to improve.
Perhaps this year, the island will see an influx of Floridians opting to take no-fly vacations nearby.