Florida is set to begin easing its ban on vacation rentals in the coming days but state Governor Ron DeSantis says lot owners can only start taking bookings again under a special condition: no New Yorkers allowed.
Since March 27, hotels across Florida have been allowed to operate without restrictions, but rental properties across the sunshine state have been forced to keep their doors locked to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The controversial decision sparked fierce pushbacks from property owners, management companies and some local officials, especially in the panhandle.
But on Friday, DeSantis provided a much welcomed update, announcing that vacation rentals could be able to roll out the welcome mats once more as early as Monday, pending final approval from county and state officials.
However, there is a catch. DeSantis insisted the reopening will not be extended to holidaymakers from the Big Apple, the country’s coronavirus epicentre.
‘If you tell me you’re going to rent them out to people from New York City, I’m probably not going to approve that, OK?’ the governor said Friday.
‘If you’re saying that you’re going to rent it out to people in other parts of Florida or something that would be manageable, if there’s ways in there that clearly you have an eye to safety, then I’m fine.’
Gov. DeSantis said Friday that vacation rentals will soon be able to roll out the welcome mats once again across the state, pending final approval from county and state officials
Since March 27, hotels across Florida have been allowed to operate without restrictions, but rentals across the sunshine state have been forced to keep their doors locked to stop the spread of COVID-19
Starting Monday, vacation rentals will be allowed to host guests again if DeSantis’ administration gives the stamp of approval, the governor said during a news conference in Jacksonville, announcing additional steps in his first phase of reopening the state’s economy.
Counties will be able to submit vacation-rental reopening plans to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which will have to sign off on the proposals.
The ban caused widespread outrage among property owners and management companies that accused DeSantis of arbitrarily targeting the vacation-rental industry, which generates around $27 billion for the state each year.
At the time, DeSantis said he specifically banned vacation rentals to discourage visitors from COVID-19 hotspots – such as New York, Louisiana and Massachusetts – from bringing the virus into Florida.
The Governor later extended the ban, while allowing hotels, motels and inns to continue operations uninhibited, with no orders limiting capacity or encouraging social distancing.
During Friday’s press conference, DeSantis said hotels needed to stay open to house National Guard troops throughout the pandemic, who had been deployed to increase testing efforts.
As of Sunday, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida reached 42,404, with 1,827 recorded deaths.
Florida, a state that relies heavily on tourism, has been hit hard economically by the coronavirus outbreak. Between March 1 and May 9, hotel revenue alone had plummeted $2.9 billion between the same time period last year
As of Sunday, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida reached 42,404, with 1,827 recorded deaths
DeSantis insisted that any such reopening will not be extended to holidaymakers from the Big Apple, the country’s coronavirus epicentre
Florida, a state that relies heavily on tourism, has been hit hard economically by the coronavirus outbreak. Between March 1 and May 9, hotel revenue alone had plummeted $2.9 billion in comparison with the same time period last year.
While the specific impact of the vacation-rental industry – with its 275,000 listings statewide – is unknown, experts believe the toll has been devastating.
Tom Martinelli, Airbnb’s Florida policy director, called DeSantis’ announcement ‘a good start.’
‘We’re glad that the governor has listened to the many voices who have called for the reopening of vacation rentals in Florida. As conveyed, vacation rentals are an important part of Florida’s economic recovery as they remain a key source of income for thousands of hosts, small businesses and local governments across the state,’ Martinelli said in a statement.
But Denis Hanks, the executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association, warned that it could take weeks for county and state officials to approve the rental reopening plans.
‘The relief for places like the Panhandle and others that are contingent upon the Memorial Day weekend and being open, it could really take them out of the whole picture,’ Hanks told the Bradenton Herald.