Tourism industry in recovery, animal sanctuary hoping for positive changes this summer

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 5:29 PM EDT
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OCALA Fla. (WCJB) - The tourism industry is on the mend in north central Florida.

With relaxed COVID-19 guidelines, some business owners are hoping this summer will be the time when they finally bounce back.

The tourism industry in Marion County, is a billion dollar industry, with millions of people traveling through the area every year.

But during 2020, a 34 percent drop in the statewide industry had a major impact on Marion County.

Tourism officials said they have a good feeling about 2021.

“Our predictions for the summer are one of great positivity. We’re looking at 17 million dollars in economic impact. We’re bringing in events like the Youth World series event and so we just have an amazing amount of activity,” Tourist Development Director, for the Ocala / Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau, Loretta Shaffer said.

And one organization is hoping to receive some of those positive vibes.

Sue Nassivera is the President and Owner of the Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary in Citra.

Right now she has 18 big cats in her care that eat between 15 to 30 pounds of meat every day.

She said it’s been hard not having tours running.

“That is where our money comes from. We’re a privately owned sanctuary so we get no money from anywhere but the public. Private donations and our tours,” Nassivera said, “We need the public to come out and support us.”

But she said she hopes, with new CDC guidelines on masks and the ability to social distance during the outdoor tour, she will see visitors again soon.

“Usually summers are slow for us because it’s hot but we’ve changed it, we’re doing the 10a.m. tours so I think that’s going to help us a lot. People are anxious to get out. We’re outside, so even if you want to social distance, you more than can, so it’s easy to come out for a hour hours with us and still be able to be safe,” she added.

Staying safe while boosting a Marion County industry.

Related story: Norwegian Cruise Line threatens to skip Florida ports

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