Sarasota business owners say they've taken a financial hit since the outbreak of red tide.
Throughout the month of August, Visit Sarasota, the official tourism agency for Sarasota County has conducted a survey of 450 businesses. A majority reported a slump in revenue due to the fish kills and odor which has impacted tourism in southwest Florida.
At the peak of the environmental crisis in Sarasota, the survey found that dozens of local hotels had seen reservations canceled due to red tide concerns.
"We've been hearing from some of our partners that they are concerned that they're seeing cancellations," said Visit Sarasota's Vice President Erin Duggan. They're also seeing future bookings down and I think some of their concerns is that maybe people aren't necessarily armed with facts."
In its most recent survey for the week of August 22-28, 46% of business owners also reported that business was down by 50% or more compared to this time last year.
Duggan says the tourism agency hopes its annual Shoptember program will provide promotional opportunities to drive tourism and economic benefits to the county. Businesses around the area are invited to participate with the agency providing promotion via its website, digital advertising, and social media.
"I know a lot of the community has banded together to try to support one another," she said. "So we're excited to be a part of that and to try to help people connect even further."
On Aug. 13, Gov. Rick Scott issued an Emergency Order for red tide and announced that $3 million had been made available to assist impacted counties with cleanup. Sarasota County applied for, and received, an allocation through the grant.
Meanwhile, a bloom of the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists in Southwest Florida and currently extends along 145 miles of coastline.
Visitors can find real time information on current environmental conditions with Mote Marine Laboratory's Beach Conditions Reporting System.
Additionally, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota conducts weekly samplings at 16 beaches along the Sarasota County coast. The agency expects to have the next round of test results available on Wednesday, Sept. 5.