Amelia Island tourism sees slowdown despite record-breaking summer


The slide selected included a reference to and picture of Robot Model B-9 from the 1960s television series “Lost in Space,” but despite the jokes and nostalgia, the concern expressed at the latest Amelia Island Tourist Development Council (TDC) meeting was real.

“You’ve heard me say before, we’re in a futures business, looking at what’s coming down the road, and we’re seeing some signs that are causing us to be a bit cautious,” said Gil Langley, President and CEO of the Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

“The percent of travelers who feel they’re financially better off at this point dropped from 33.6% to 31% in the first quarter. Americans who plan to take a leisure trip in the next 12 months has dropped nearly 8 points since February. Consumer confidence, which is our main metric to look at what’s happening in the economy, fell for a third consecutive month. The expectations index held steady, but remained below 80%, which reinforces the prediction that we’re heading into a recession.”

The news comes as summer spending seemed to defy conventional wisdom and stayed bullish.

“We came in at $25.6 million in taxable sales, generating $1.3 million in bed tax collections, which again was over last year at 7.8%,” Langley said of the June numbers.

“Year to date, we have $167 million in taxable sales, and we’ve collected $8.3 million in bed tax collections. At this point for the entire calendar year in 2021, we were at just over $8.7 million, for the entire year. So, we have three months to go, and we’re anticipating bed tax collections will come in significantly over $10 million for the first time in the history of the organization.”

The trend nationally shows stays during the summer were shorter, and people spent less money. Talk about recession may fade with the recent jobs numbers.

The latest national report shows economists’ expectations blown with 528,000 new jobs, a 3.5% unemployment rate, and wage increases over last year to the tune of 5.2%. 

Events and festivals goose those tourism numbers that otherwise wouldn’t benefit from the usual beach and convention traffic. The TDC voted to financially back several efforts.

Events supported by the TDC include the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival ($25,000), the Amelia Island Dance Festival ($10,000), the Island Hop Craft Beer Fest ($10,000), the Songwriter Festival ($5,000) and the Endless Summer Ride ($4,600).

In light of recessionary talk and the age of its current marketing materials, the CVB is looking to produce the island’s first full tourism marketing campaign in five years.

“We think this is the right time for us to re-look at the development of a new marketing campaign,” said Amy Boek, Chief Marketing Officer for the CVB.

They’re working with the media firm Starmark, with whom the CVB already has an ongoing relationship from prior projects. There’s no new money for the campaign, as it’s being paid for by money already budgeted.

“One of the main things we’re going to judge (a new campaign concept) on is, is it going to help increase the economic impact from visitors?” Boek said. 

Though it’s early on in the planning stages, the campaign will focus on the island’s “natural beauty, Southern hospitality, rich history and luxurious surroundings.”

The hope is to get the campaign planned and executed within the next two months.

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