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image - FWC courtesy drone view of Red Tide along Florida's coast

UF economic report details select marine industry and tourism impacts from 2018 red tide event

  • A survey on the 2018 red tide event was conducted in 2020 for those in marine-dependent industries operating out of Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
  • Charter/for-hire businesses that responded to the survey averaged a 61% decrease in revenue when red tide was present in their local waters, and marine recreation operators averaged a 36% decrease in revenue when red tide was present locally. Even after the bloom had ended, the operations reported revenue was 28% and 15% lower than average, respectively.
  • Based on a review of Airbnb reservations, researchers estimate approximately $184 million in losses in the tourism sector.

A newly released University of Florida report sheds light on the economic repercussions of the large red tide bloom that affected the Southwest Florida region from late 2017 to early 2019.

The report, out of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program, details the findings of a 2020 survey of marine-dependent industries operating out of Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. Among the findings: Charter/for-hire businesses that responded to the survey averaged a 61% decrease in revenue when red tide was present in their local waters, and marine recreation operators averaged a 36% decrease in revenue when red tide was present locally. Even after the bloom had ended, the operations reported revenue was 28% and 15% lower than average, respectively.

“As this region is currently experiencing another red tide event, we must thank the participants of the 2020 survey for providing insights that may help serve as a baseline for this and future blooms,” said research team member Andrew Ropicki, assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics (FRE) department and the Florida Sea Grant marine economics specialist. The research was funded by the West Coast Inland Navigation District and The Marine Industries Association of Southwest Florida and Tampa Bay.

The region contains roughly 22% of the state economy, contributing $452 billion in industry output in 2019, the report notes.

“We know that a significant portion of this area’s economy is tied, directly or indirectly, to the Gulf of Mexico,” said Christa Court, assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics (FRE) department and director of the Economic Impact Analysis Program. “Our work demonstrates that there were significant declines in activity within marine-dependent industries as well as peer-to-peer accommodations during the 2018 red tide event.”

On the latter subject, the report conservatively estimates a direct impact of approximately $184 million in local tourism dollars. The study considered Airbnb property reservations as a gauge for visitor spending throughout the region. The researchers calculate that for each water sample with a concentration of Karenia brevis (the dinoflagellate that causes red tide) above 100,000 cells per liter, the average daily rate of Airbnb properties in a county was reduced by $0.446.

Going forward, Court says her team is continuing to investigate other aspects of the economic consequences of the 2018 red tide event, with new funding from the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS), a regional association partly supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among other entities. These inquiries include effects to activities related to commercial fishing, tourism and property values.

“Similar to our work on the impacts of other hazard events, this report provides data and insights to inform the decision-making process as lawmakers consider strategies aimed at decreasing the frequency and intensity of harmful algal blooms and mitigating their consequences,” Court said.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
ifas.ufl.edu  @UF_IFAS

(Featured image of red tide is courtesy of FWC)