Dr. Rick Harper: Pensacon Boosts Winter Economy

Feb 23, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses the economics of the inaugural Pensacon convention. Organizers projected between 5,000 and 10,000 people would attend the event, which quickly filled the Crown Plaza Hotel and Pensacola Bay Center.  “It is big, and it’s rare that in February you have a downtown hotel reporting that it’s fully booked,” Harper says.

Credit University of West Florida

To further make the point on the significance of the event during the “winter visitation trough,” he says that there are just a few big weekends during the height of the tourist season that beach hotels fill up.

Harper says it’s too early to determine the economic impact, estimated to be as much as $2 million.  But, he proposed that even if 100 businesses made just $2,000 more for money, “it would be a tremendous boon to local businesses.”

Referencing Pensacon, Harper says it’s good to have a lot of “people in funny costumes” crowding into downtown establishments in what otherwise might have been a dead weekend. He says what’s even better is to combine this event with some other shoulder season activities that are being considered. Namely, Harper notes the new hospitality coordinating council that allocates bed tax revenues for Escambia County is reviewing plans for a downtown fall festival centered on arts and culture. The event would showcase arts organizations such as the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra and Pensacola Opera.

Finally, to bring context to the impact of Pensacon, Harper says it’s not the Blue Angels Air Show over Pensacola Beach. But, he notes that bringing in 5,000 to 10,000 people to downtown Pensacola in the winter to eat at restaurants and have many of them staying in hotels, is a good thing. He suggests that having other such events at least once a month would be good for growth; creating jobs and new opportunities, not just in hospitality and leisure, but spread throughout the economy.

Dr. Rick Harper is Director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement. He’s currently serving as Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the Florida Senate.  http://www.uwf.edu/oede/, rharper@uwf.edu