TAMPA — Expectations run high as Tampa Bay prepares for the Republican National Convention (RNC) next week. An estimated 45,000 delegates, media and other visitors will converge on Tampa for the four-day political exhibition beginning August 27.
Wait a minute, only 45,000 people? That is less than a well-attended Tampa Bay Buccaneers football game. Why is that amount of visitors such a big deal?
In the past, Tampa and surrounding areas have hosted the World Series, soccer championships, Stanley Cup playoffs and even a few NFL Super Bowls. What is important, according to the TampaBayHostCommittee (TBHC), are the expected 13,000 to 15,000 members of the media. The deluge of media scrutiny will put the RNC behind the Olympic Games as the most-widely covered media event in the world. These people, generally arriving by air, will need transportation, lodging, food and entertainment.
Attendees to the RNC are hoping to be in a festive mode, which means open wallets.
Comprising the TBHC are representatives of various local business; by their estimate, the economic impact will be $175 to $200 million. In addition, for four days Tampa Bay will be in the national spotlight, possibly sparking interest from outside. The TBHC is hoping the world will see what a fantastic place Tampa Bay is.
OvationTechnologies, the Tampa-based hiring, screening and human resource Software Company, studied several businesses as they prepared for the late-August event. Ovation asked a single question—will the RNC correspond to more jobs?
According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in the Tampa Bay region is holding steady at 9 percent but lags behind the national average of 8.3 percent. The happy news is that last year, Tampa had a jobless rate of 11 percent; the new numbers represent a significant improvement.
The hospitality industry—restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts and other ancillary travel businesses—are the leading forces in the Tampa Bay economy. There are many excellent reasons why—the best beaches in the world, a solid professional sports presence, and access to theme parks such as Busch Gardens. These attractions guide 14.5 million visitors yearly to the Tampa Bay area, spending nearly $3.4 billion (visittampabay.com). The venue of the RNC, the Tampa Bay Times Arena, is in the downtown waterfront area, offering a spectacular view.
Ovation polled local hospitality businesses, including leading hotels and restaurants, surrounding the Arena. They were asked what effects of the RNC would be and if any additional staff was hired in anticipation. Many managers reported that although they expect the event to have a positive impact on the area, they did not anticipate an overall influence in current hiring patterns.
In fact, most businesses reported they would add hours for existing staff, bring support from other locations (like Orlando) or hire temporary workers through staffing firms. There were other concerns, such as security measures for the event and the reduction of normal traffic patterns. A few businesses within the core area said they would reduce hours—or even close—during the event, due to anticipated traffic rerouting, increased security and focus on the venue.
In the end, it appears that Tampa Bay will be taking the event in stride, offering a characteristic warm welcome to RNC visitors. After four days of political festivities, it will be back to business as usual.