Study: Less Travel, Spending in Florida Thanks to COVID-19

May 6, 2020
Originally published on May 5, 2020 6:44 pm

  

Floridians are staying put and keeping their money in their pockets during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by UWF’s Haas Business Center.

The economic-impact survey was conducted from March 16 to April 6. Jerry Parrish, who chairs the council of economic advisors at Haas, says it was an online study out of necessity.

“It was originally intended to go out and intercept people, but now you can’t do that,” Parrish said. “So it turned into an online survey. It’s pretty remarkable that, in these days, when not too many people want to fill out surveys, more than 3,000 people participated in this one.”

The goal was to understand the types of travel and spending changes forced upon Florida residents by the pandemic. The survey was online in both Spanish and English.

“I asked the questions like, ‘Have you postponed or cancelled travel? Is it business travel, [or] is it leisure travel? What number of trips have you postponed or traveled?’ Kind of get an idea of how much money is not being spent that would normally be spent on travel by Floridians during this time,” said Parrish.

The survey data revealed three points: first, those cancelling or putting off travel, and how many trips were impacted.

“Twenty-two percent of the participants have postponed their travel; 42% had cancelled their travel, 5% kept their plans anyway, and then 34% had no plans scheduled during this time.”

In point two, 61% of respondents reported no loss of income due to the coronavirus; the others, says Parrish, not so much.

“Seventeen percent of people said they hadn’t lost wages yet, but it was likely to be in the future,” said Parrish. “And 22% had already lost wages or income. So 39% of people have either already lost some or expected in the near future.”

The third finding is that 90% of Floridians reported reduced spending across many different industry sectors in a dubious circle. Less income means less spending, which leads to less tax revenue for state coffers. That in turn impacts a number of state services.

“The average decrease in retail is expected to be 76%; restaurants and bars down 80%, and admissions and entertainment – going to movies, going to theme parks – [a] 91% drop,” said Parrish. “That represents a lot of revenue for our states and counties.”

The state of Florida has been salting away cash for a number of years in a “rainy-day fund.” Parrish says this could be the time to start putting it to use.

“There’s quite a few reserves; certainly it’s going to hurt the state of Florida,” said Parrish. “But they have made some allocations for it in the past to save that money for something exactly like this, when the state revenues drop off substantially.”

After the numbers were crunched, Parrish began using the data for a Florida Chamber of Commerce study on an estimate of how the pandemic is going to affect the state budget through the decrease in state revenues.

“You’ve got to remember -- Florida runs on sales taxes,” Parrish said. “About 77% of our general revenue in the state comes from sales and use taxes. It will affect government services, I think, more at the county level than it will at the state level. But it depends on the county. How much money did each county put away for a rainy day?”

The Haas Center’s Jerry Parrish says a follow-up survey could be conducted later this year, given the success of this one.

“It gives real-time data, where we have to wait on our sales tax revenue and that kind of data -- sometimes for several weeks -- before we actually see what has happened to our state and local tax revenues,” said Parrish.

More information about the UWF Haas Center, along with access to the economic impacts study, are at haas.uwf.edu.

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