Financial relief from RNC convention can’t come quick enough for area hotels, attractions

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Although the Republican National Committee’s is expected to pump millions into local coffers, it come quick enough for hundreds of employees at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa.

According to a letter filed with the State Trade and Rapid Response Coordinator, the hotel has “instituted temporary furloughs, temporary layoffs and/or temporary reduction of hours for all but 13 of its employees as it tries to rebound from losses incurred during the mandatory COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

The national convention, scheduled at the VyStar Memorial Arena in Jacksonville for Aug. 24-27, is expected to attract as many as 50,000 people, according to Visit Jacksonville.

A massive infusion of revenue will be a relief to most area businesses, county manager Hunter Conrad said.

“It won’t solve everything, but it will help,” he said. “Look back at THE PLAYERS. That was a big loss and it only got worse with everything that had to shut down with COVID-19. To what extent it will help, we don’t know.”

Conrad said the county will have a two-fold approach to the convention. First is the immediate financial impact for hotels, restaurants, golf courses and attractions. Second is the long-term affect that will help convince visitors to make St. Johns County their vacation destination.

“This is an opportunity to showcase St. Johns County – our beaches, golf courses and the history. We know if they come here, people from all over the country will want to return.”

The RNC has a contract for 1,736 rooms from county hotels, including the Sawgrass Marriott, Hilton Garden at TPC Sawgrass in and Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, according to St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches CEO Richard Goldman. He said county hotels should expect a minimum $1.83 million windfall during the four-day event. The average room rate is $265 a night, he said.

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