FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Despite the pandemic, the Franklin County Tourist Development Council is seeing significantly higher numbers than this time last year.

Vacation rentals, shops and restaurants are all seeing an uptick in business as of lately.

Because tourism is the driving factor for the economy in Franklin County, this could significantly benefit the county budget.

“We are open for business, and we’re open for business safely,” said TDC Director, John Solomon.

According to the Franklin County TDC, the months of January through December trended 25% higher for occupancy percentage numbers and future paid occupancy percentage numbers than other areas in the Panhandle and Florida as a whole. The number of booked rooms is also higher than this time last year.

“We reopened in May, the numbers shot up dramatically to a point that we’ve never seen before,” said Solomon.

According to County Finance Officer, Erin Griffith, the state estimates that Franklin County is going to have more than $70 million in taxable transient rentals just from this year.

“Even our numbers going forward to the end of the year are up, a much higher percentage than they have been in many years past. I do see a trend continuing on, it’s great to have because we are a small community and we depend on tourism these days in our community. To be able to have that, knowing that it supports peoples families,” said Solomon.

For the third least populated county in Florida, the influx of tourism in the area is something special.

“We’re happy to see bags in peoples hands, where they’ve been shopping and sitting outside of the restaurants,” said Solomon.

Restaurant owners are seeing these benefits first hand.

“Here at the restaurant we’re doing fairly well, notwithstanding the limitations that we’re operating on, but the numbers are up in the rental properties,” Apalachicola Seafood Grill Owner, Jerry Hall.

For small cities like Apalachicola, these high tourism numbers for many, mean paying bills and feeding families.

“The city as a whole, I think it’s going very well. Like I said we’re in weird times,” said Hall.

“I’m just glad people are getting out and not afraid, I hope it’s very good for Apalachicola, that’s one reason that we’re here, we like to support local’s,” said Visitor, Alex Burgess.