Harper: Packed Beaches Great For Local Economy

Jul 11, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses the importance of the month of July to Northwest Florida’s tourism industry.

Credit University of West Florida

“In our climate zone, July is far and away the biggest month. It’s the month in which hoteliers and restaurateurs are able to charge top dollar, keep the place full. That’s when they pack away the profits they’ll need to make their lease or mortgage payments throughout the rest of the year,” says Harper, who adds that there are indications that it’s a good July this year.

Looking back at the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Santa Rosa Island Authority Executive Director Buck Lee estimated 200,000 people came to Pensacola Beach for the three-day holiday period. Harper says the gulf coast region benefited partially from Hurricane Arthur that impacted much of the Atlantic coast.

“The expectation for bad weather along the East Coast for the 4th of July weekend certainly brought people here who otherwise might have gotten in their car and gone east,” Harper says.

Overall, Harper says he expects to see growth this July relative to July of 2013, noting growth over the past several years coming out of the influx of marketing money from BP following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Contributing this month’s growth in the Pensacola area is the return of the Blue Angels Air Show over Pensacola Beach this week, for the first time since 2012. The Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron was grounded last year as a result of across the board, automatic budget cuts due to Sequestration.

Beach officials are projecting a record turnout for the three performance days, which would top the estimated 150,000 attendance two years ago. Anecdotally, Lee says one indication is the fact that his observation that more people than ever attended this year’s Wednesday morning “Breakfast with the Blues” event.

“So the beach will be packed and again, top dollar this weekend. So, it’s shaping up to be a great July for the hospitality and tourism industry,” says Harper.

Finally, Harper weighed in on the June jobs report, saying it was a very good report. Nearly 300,000 net new jobs nationally were created during the month.

“I’m happy to say that it appears that the weakness in Quarter 1, where we had that strong downward revision down to negative 2.9 percent in GDP (gross domestic product) is contradicted by more recent, favorable data (for Quarter 2).”

Dr. Rick Harper is director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement; rharper@uwf.edu.