Historic coast sees surge in summer visitors

Despite nationwide concerns about the economy, St. Augustine Visitors and Convention Bureau Communications Director Jay Humphreys told Historic City News that visitors this summer are coming to Florida’s Historic Coast in record numbers.

Just released July data show the occupancy rate for the area’s seaside resorts, luxury hotels, historic inns and family-friendly lodgings was 66.2 percent- the highest rate since July 2007 – a year that set a record for visitors to the area.

Stretching from Ponte Vedra southward through St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach to Marineland, Florida’s Historic Coast features 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches, world-renowned golfing opportunities, unique history, fine dining, upscale shopping and romantic getaways.

“We are extremely encouraged by these numbers,” said Richard Goldman, executive director of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau. “Tourism is often one of the first victims of an economic downturn, but it’s also a great indicator of consumer confidence. This summer, it’s now obvious that vacationers are confident that Florida’s Historic Coast will provide them with an outstanding and memorable vacation experience.”

Goldman said the strong July showing, coupled with a positive June, have pushed the area’s year-to-date numbers into the positive range for the first time in three years. He credits this success to the Visitors and Convention Bureau’s new publicity, promotions and advertising campaigns, especially the Bureau’s immediate response to vacationers’ concerns about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“Our area has been a popular vacation destination for more than a century,” Goldman said. “But the economy and the oil spill, despite the fact that it was nearly one thousand miles away, created a sense of uncertainty among potential visitors. Fortunately, we were able to sculpt a message that reminded past visitors that we are even better than they remembered and enticed new visitors to choose us – a choice I’m sure they are now glad they made.”

The occupancy data was just released by Smith Travel Research, an experienced and respected monitor of the American hospitality industry. In addition to the high occupancy rate, the latest report said the number of rooms sold on Florida’s Historic Coast in July (118,379) and the amount of revenue collected ($13.2 million) were also the highest since July 2007.

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