Amelia Island tourism on the rise

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter-News Analyst

Gil Langley
Gil Langley, President and CEO of the Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau

According to Gil Langley, President and CEO of the Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, June and July are the two busiest months of the year for Amelia Island tourism.   If trends for the first quarter of 2013 continue for the remainder of the year, this could be a banner year for numbers of visitors.  The recent grand opening of the renovated and expanded Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort at a cost of $85M will impact the trends further by expanding the island’s capacity to host large conferences and gatherings.

Tourism accounts for approximately 34% of the local economy.  More than a quarter of the non-farm labor force is employed in tourist related activities.  The Amelia Island Tourism Development Council recently released data compiled by Research Data Services, Inc. relating to the first quarter of 2013, revealing positive trends.

Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach tourism, both in terms of numbers of visitors and economic impact, is on the rise.  During the first quarter of 2013, the number of visitors increased by almost 9% over the same period in 2012, resulting in a corresponding rise in direct revenue increase of almost 16% for the same period. In absolute numbers, 122,200 visitors spent $74,055,600 resulting in a total economic impact of $97,435,000 on our island during what is traditionally a slow 3-month tourism period of the year.

Who are these tourists?  Where do they come from and why do they choose to visit Amelia Island?

The great majority of island visitors come from the southeast United States.  But it appears that an increasing numbers visit from the Midwest.  The top 5 states of origin include Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio; the top 5 metropolitan areas generating our tourist numbers are Jacksonville, New York/New Jersey, Atlanta, Greater Orlando and Miami/Fort Lauderdale.

The average visitors stay 4 days and declare a 97.5% satisfaction with their stay.  The average age of the visiting head of household is 52, and that person’s median household income is $122,636.  That average visitor spends over $150 per day.  The top two activities area visitors enjoyed were dining out (79.8%) and the historic downtown (79.3%), followed by the beach (63.4%), walking on the beach (59.1%), shopping (54.3%) and relaxing (53.5%).

While this year’s visitors still ranked beautiful beaches (75.5%) slightly ahead of the historic downtown (74.6%), last year the beaches outranked the downtown by seven percentage points during the same period.

AITDC in Session May 2013
The Amelia Island Tourism Development Council members gather for May meeting.

The Amelia Island Convention Visitors Bureau, headed by Gil Langley, is responsible for the various marketing campaigns that attract visitors to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach.  They are the people who encourage businesses and organizations to hold their annual meetings and conferences here, place ads in magazines and newspapers around the country, and maintain an active presence online with their website.

More than 70% of the information visitors obtain about Amelia Island comes from the internet, whether from direct ads, ratings from services such as Travel Advisor, or travel writer reviews.  Forty percent of visitors have seen promotional materials produced by Langley’s group before setting foot on the island.Gil Langley briefs AITDC May 2013

Langley runs a tight ship, with most of the tourism expenses dedicated to advertising and outreach as opposed to overhead.  The Convention Visitors Bureau reports to the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council (AIDTC), which was created by the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners in 1988 to oversee the development and marketing of Amelia Island as a world-class tourism destination. As provided by Florida law, the AITDC is responsible for the expenditure of revenues received from the levy and imposition of the tourism development tax, commonly referred to as “the bed tax.”

The goals of the AITDC are to generate visitation to Amelia Island and its attractions/special hospitality industry, thereby increasing tax revenues, including sales taxes and those imposed on the hospitality industry. In turn, those tax revenues may be used to improve the quality of life for the citizens of the community, provide support for beach renourishment, and ensure a viable hospitality industry.

For more information about the AITDC visit their website.   There you can view their 2012 Annual Report and learn more about their marketing efforts and tourism related statistics.

Tourism puts bread on the table for many of our Nassau County residents. Tourists who stay overnight also help put sand on our beaches through the bed tax.  Let’s keep them coming back, along with their friends and families!

Suanne Z. Thamm Reporter-News Analyst
Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter-News Analyst

Editor’s Note:  Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, N Y, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city.  We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

June 10, 2013 3:37 p.m.