Gov. Ron DeSantis has extended a statewide ban on new vacation rental reservations through April.
DeSantis issued the order to help prevent people from out of state fleeing local lockdowns from vacationing in the state. Since then, he has ordered a statewide stay-at-home order.
The March 27 order said “many cases of COVID-19 in Florida have resulted from individuals coming into the state of Florida from international travel and other states, posing great risk to Florida residents” and added that “vacation rentals and third-party platforms advertising vacation rentals in Florida present attractive lodging destinations for individuals coming into Florida.”
Some local jurisdictions have closed hotels to tourists, but statewide, they can remain open if they follow federal social distancing guidelines. Florida Vacation Rental Management Association Executive Director Denis Hanks implored DeSantis to reverse his decision or to share the data backing the ban.
“While we understand the public safety approach to this emergency order and extension, we do have some serious concerns as the only hospitality sector singled out and restricted by its implementation,” Hanks said in a statement. “In the meantime, hotels, cruise ships, airports and other lodging and transportation providers continue to operate without restrictions of this nature despite them posing a higher risk of spreading the virus.”
Vacation rentals are a safer alternative to hotels, he continued, and run by small businesses rather than corporations.
“Hotels, cruise ships and other public lodging with numerous shared spaces, handrails, elevators, amenities, etc. are a breeding ground for the spread of this virus which the CDC clearly tells the public to avoid,” Hanks said. “Hotel guests are forced to leave rooms and forage for food, yet another cause for concern. Stand-alone vacation rental homes for this fact alone are the best public safety option in lodging.”
The Governor has also ordered that people traveling from New York City, New Orleans and the surrounding areas to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the state, which he says had reduced the number of plane trips from the New York area. The state also opened highway checkpoints at the border on Interstate 10 and Interstate 95 after an order issued the same day as the initial vacation rental ban.
Vacation rentals — available through Airbnb, VRBO and other short-term rental providers — have become a popular lodging alternative for tourists and Spring Breakers, who have drawn the ire of DeSantis throughout the pandemic.
Industry expert Wendy Shultz, founder of The Simple Life Hospitality, said vacation rentals could have been a solution for those looking to self-isolate because it requires less face-to-face interaction than a hotel.
“How do they quarantine themselves for 14 days if they can’t be with family?” she said when DeSantis issued the initial vacation rental order. “It almost seems like a vacation rental would be the perfect place for someone to self-quarantine.”
Also last month, the Governor said officials were considering the possibility of housing patients who test positive for the virus in hotels. Keeping patients in central locations could protect people who live with someone forced to self-isolate.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.