Empty tables, barren bars and airports with very few travelers are among the symptoms of the coronavirus pandemic economy. Economists warn these realities will not change as soon as we would like.
Months after the economy first took a hit, not much has changed for business owners.
Martin Drexler, who owns Wise Guys Deli in downtown Fort Myers relies on a customer base still working from home.
“I’m still down about 40 to 50% some days, and I’m afraid that it won’t fully come back until we open up fully,” Drexler said.
It’s hard hits like this that make national economists think the U.S. economy won’t return to its pre-pandemic level until 2022. Local economists say, here in Southwest Florida, it could be even longer.
“We are heavily tied to the hospitality and tourism in Southwest Florida and as a state,” said Chris Westley, the dean of the FGCU business school. “And so when people around the country and around the world cut back on discretionary spending, that usually has an effect on us in Southwest Florida.”
Anne Lindberg worked as a corporate travel agent for 37 years. She’s now furloughed. With the surge in virtual meetings, she thinks it will be 2024 before the travel industry bounces back.
“I don’t know if the travel industry will ever come back the way it was,” Lindberg said. “They are just having to now lay off people right and left. You know, it starts with the housekeepers on up. It’s everybody.”
That’s everyone, including the sandwich shop on a downtown street just trying to survive.
“I am hanging in there, and I’m going to just wait it out,” Drexler said.