This week’s episode of Eye on Travel — is traveling for the first time in five months – to the Tampa Marriott Water Street in Tampa, Florida. Peter updates on the Covid-19 travel world: which countries are open, which have shut down (again) and a report on Global Entry. Patrick Smith, author of Cockpit Confidential and AskThePilot.com, reports on the changing dynamics of airline pilots in the wake of the pandemic. Maritime historian Peter Knego with an update on the almost unprecedented number of cruise ships being sent to the scrapyards. And we’ll get a frontline Florida report on how Tampa is adjusting as one of the nation’s hot spots for the virus. Richard Gonzmart, owner of the legendary Columbia restaurant, tells us how he’s kept his staff working during the pandemic. We’ll also hear from CEO of Mise en Place, Maryann Ferenc, on the challenging restaurant economic scene and what local restaurants are doing to implement safe dining. And Dr. Lauren Smith, Director of Animal Health at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, on how the zoo’s animals adjusted to the dramatic drop in visitors, the lessons that the zookeepers learned, and how the zoo has reopened with new safety measures. There’s all this and more when Eye on Travel broadcasts from Tampa Marriott Water Street in Tampa, Florida.
Tune in to PeterGreenberg.com from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. ET for the latest Eye on Travel on Saturday, August 1, 2020
Have a travel question? Then ask Peter. E-mail him at email@example.com, or tweet your questions to @petersgreenberg (include #AskPeter).
Joe Brancatelli, founder of JoeSentMe.com, discusses the state of the world and the importance of traveling with caution: he thinks the best way forward is more widespread testing. It’s important for economies around the world that people start traveling again, but Joe believes that travelers should be tested at airports when entering a country. We could have a vaccine for the coronavirus tomorrow or there could never be one. He also speaks about intercountry travel within the United States and the current restrictions within traveling between states. State tourist boards need to lead the way in making the process as safe as possible and he argues that while creating a safe experience may be costly, it’s better than having no business.
Sara DiNatale, Retail, Tourism and Workplace Culture Reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, discusses how Florida and Tampa are getting used to “the new normal.” During peak spring break time, hotels were under capacity, but now they are at around 50% occupancy — which is higher compared to the rest of the United States. Some restaurants in the area are even shifting to carry-out models and installing permanent take-out windows. With the sunny year-round weather in Florida, restaurants have also expanded outdoor seating. DiNatale also thinks that in three years, we will see cultural workspace effects with a broad trend of people moving out of office spaces. Some days, Florida has had more COVID-19 cases than the entirety of the European Union, but it will be hard to see if anything is getting better in Florida right away because of long testing times. There is hope in Florida. Mask awareness has gone up, and some local businesses have even embraced self-imposed mask only policies.
Maryann Ferenc, CEO of Mise en Place, has been in the restaurant industry for 34 years. During the pandemic, independent restaurants have come together to share tips and ideas on how people can dine safely in Tampa Bay. She says the biggest challenge is educating themselves and the general public on how dining can continue safely. Restaurants have tackled this issue by decreasing table space and allowing tables to be spread further apart. Staff is also being trained on protocols to provide a smooth flow of service. Restaurant-goers are adapting as well. She says they are giving larger tips and finding ways to dine in more intimate settings.
Richard Gonzmart, President of Columbia Restaurant Group and 4th generation family member, talks about his restaurant experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. His restaurant is one of the biggest in America. It holds 1,700 guests in 15 dining rooms. Columbia was founded in 1905 and has seen its fair share of disasters like the Spanish Flu, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. Gonzmart has been preparing for a disaster like this by saving up money for the restaurant. During the pandemic, he has fed 9,000 family members of staff and continued to provide healthcare for all staff members. No one was laid off. He wanted to keep staff and customers safe and even waited until after the governor opened up restaurants to open back up. The restaurant is implementing social distancing and staff training. He says that by the end of the pandemic, the food and the experience will be better for staff and employees alike.
Jeannie Pierola, Chef-owner of Edison Food+Drink Lab, Swigamajig and Counter Culture, discusses her restaurant journey over the years. She worked at famous restaurant Bern’s for 11 years as the executive chef before deciding to open her own restaurants. All three of her restaurants are currently open and abiding by social distancing policies. When the COVID-19 case spike hit Florida, reservations dropped, and she says she has been doing everything to just keep rolling forward. Edison Food+Drink Lab has finally found the time to remodel the building and also open with a brand new menu.
Lonnie Herman, Owner and Tour Guide of Ybor City Historic Walking Tours, speaks about the beginnings of this historic city in Tampa, Florida. It was named after its founder Vicente Martinez-Ybor, who moved from Cuba to Florida to build a cigar empire. By 1927, his town — that he had built from swampy Tampa — had 230 cigar factories and 12,000 people in the industry making 700 million hand rolled cigars. Now the 10 blocks serve as a national historic landmark district. Only a handful of factories are still open today, but visitors can find boutique factories where workers still hand roll the cigars.
Dr. Lauren Smith, Director of Animal Health at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, saw the zoo closed for two months in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. She thinks the animals noticed the lack of people. Once the zoo reopened, the employees now wear masks and gloves in the zoo as well as follow social distancing guidelines. Reservations in advance are helping staff predict numbers and allow for a safe experience. ZooTampa is home to the rescue and rehab program that takes injured manatees and then releases them back into the wild. They also house the okapi, an animal that resembles a horse, giraffe and zebra!
Lonnie Herman, Owner and Tour Guide of Ybor City Historic Walking Tours, speaks about the beginnings of this historic city in Tampa. It was named after its founder Vicente Martinez-Ybor, who moved from Cuba to Florida to build a cigar empire. By 1927, his town — that he had built from swampy Tampa — had 230 cigar factories and 12,000 people in the industry making 700 million hand rolled cigars. Now the 10 blocks serve as a national historic landmark district. Only a handful of factories are still open today, but visitors can find boutique factories where workers still hand roll the cigars.