By David Waddle, Brian Haugen and Steve Cann
As the summer 2011 tourist season draws to an end, it seems our beloved Emerald Coast has slowly risen from the ashes of 2010’s unfortunate events. While the national economy continues to muddle through fits and starts, we’ve seen clear indications that our local tourism economy has gained much more traction. Our present view is founded upon limited statistics and some admittedly nonscientific observations, which we’ll share in this article. While these indicators are somewhat subjective, they do provide interesting (and somewhat humorous) insights into the progress of life and our economy along the coast.
F or instance, from our fifth floor office overlooking Destin Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico, we enjoy a unique bird’s-eye view of this summer’s daily waterways routines: The fishing fleet kicks off each day with the early morning cavalcade to the Gulf. Soon after, rented Jet Skis motor out to Crab Island. Next in line are the dolphin cruises—brimming with passengers this year! Finally, around midmorning, parasails begin filling the sky along the beach. It’s these parasails that provide our first “economic indicator” of sorts.
You see, in the previous two summers, we have not observed more than seven parachutes in the sky simultaneously. But this year for the first time, on June 30, 2011, we counted nine chutes flying high over Destin’s beach! That was our first harbinger of a strong 2011 summer season. In turn, the ensuing Fourth of July weekend was wildly successful as our summer visitors returned in droves.
To confirm our “parasails indicator,” we sought other unique local signs of economic progress, and we found plenty! We’ll share some of them with you below. We hope you enjoy these amusing perspectives from local business and community leaders:
“Last year, there was no traffic to complain about; this year folks are coming up to me and saying, ‘It took me 10 minutes longer than usual to get home because of traffic—wow, isn’t that great!’ I believe our community has now determined that perhaps crowded roads for a couple weeks are well worth the slight delay in their personal travel—it means an increase in our tourism business.”
Ted Corcoran President/CEO Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce
“I always ask my spring semester undergraduate economics class how their summer job search is going. If everybody has a position lined up by April 15th, either lifeguarding, bartending, or working in a shop for that summer, then I know that our tourism will be up over the previous year. I’m happy to report that summer 2011 will break records in the Pensacola market!”
Rick Harper, Ph.D. Executive Director Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development University of West Florida
“In Gulf County, tourism is currently great—the ‘Lights Are On’! We may only have three traffic lights in the county, but all of the lights are on at the grocery store checkout lines and our sleepy lighthouse wants to be climbed by all. Lighthouse director Beverly Mount-Douds recently called in to report she once hoped for a hundred climbers per week—she now has approximately a hundred per day!”
Tim Kerigan Director Gulf County Tourist Development Council
“I think the economy has turned around; recently the Mid-Bay Bridge had three lines of vehicles backed up—most all were out-of-state tags.”
Randall Wise Mayor City of Niceville
“For all of us who live in or around Sandestin, we know it’s busy when the grocery store shelves are stripped bare of cereal, milk, and peanut butter.”
John Russell President Sandestin Investments, LLC
“For me, restaurants are always good indicators that things are picking up. I haven’t been to one lately where I didn’t have to wait. In fact, just this past weekend, one had a two-hour wait.”
Carol Roberts President/CEO Bay County Chamber of Commerce
“My true indicator is when the traffic stays backed up on Hwy. 98 in front of our office and it’s not raining! Then I know business is good for everyone!”
Jeanne Dailey President/Broker Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, Inc.
“Every time I hear people complain about the traffic, I think of the days we could have lain down in the road and now how great it is to see all these ‘fresh credit cards being driven around by smiling people.’”
Peter Bos President/CEO Legendary, Inc.
“I judge how the economy is doing by the number of out-of-state tags I see. If I drive in a parking lot and there are more out-of-state tags than Florida tags, then I think things must be going well.”
Dr. Judy Bense UWF President
We appreciate the thoughtful insights from these business and community leaders, and we hope all of this adds up to clear evidence of a new beginning for the Emerald Coast. In the meantime—from our office balcony we just counted a record number of boats anchored in the Destin Harbor. Perhaps that equates to a productive and profitable autumn economy?!
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The organizations listed above are all independent and are not affiliated with Raymond James and Associates.
Prepared by David Waddle, Brian Haugen, and Steve Cann of Emerald Coast Wealth Advisors of Raymond James and Associates, which specializes in designing personalized, diversified financial portfolios for high-net-worth investors along the Emerald Coast.