Alberto cost the Panhandle an estimated $600 to $700 million in tourism dollars

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Subtropical Storm Alberto didn’t cause as much physical damage as state officials had expected but…

Photo: Jeff Wald / MGN

“The timing couldn't have been worse,” said James Miller with the Florida Retail Federation.

That’s because it made landfall during Memorial Day weekend, which is the second busiest weekend for tourism in the Panhandle.

“So it'll be very hard to recoup some of the losses,” said Richard Turner, Vice President of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis' family owns Captain Anderson’s Restaurant in Panama City.

“We did 40 percent of what we should have done,” said Patronis.

Other businesses in the Panhandle reported similar losses.

“Losing out on that much economic activity can really crush a business,” said Miller.

Early estimates put the total loss of economic activity caused by Alberto between $600 and $700 million.

To help make up the lost profits Governor Rick Scott is calling on Visit Florida to ramp up marketing efforts for the Panhandle.

The Florida Retail Federation says business owners still need to do their part to bring in customers.

“It's just a matter of increasing marketing, having discounts, and doing whatever you can locally to get people in there,” said Miller.

Some businesses may have an opportunity make up some of their lost revenue starting Friday, with the weeklong Hurricane Preparedness sales tax holiday.

“This is the way the state gives you incentive to go out there and harden your home and prepare for the storm,” said Patronis.

Overall, business advocates are optimistic Visit Florida will be successful at attracting more tourists.

"Visit Florida will definitely do their part nationally and globally to get people there,” said Miller. "So hopefully together those two things will work out and help those small businesses survive."

Miller points to Visit Florida's efforts in 2017, which resulted in a record 116.5 million visitors despite Hurricane Irma’s devastation.

Visit Florida received $76 million from the state this year.

Governor Rick Scott says part of that money is intended to let people know the state is open for business following storms.