April 25, 2013

Isles on track to hit tourism record

By Nikki Wiley
The Brunswick News

BRUNSWICK — Tourism in Brunswick and the Golden Isles is on pace to rival Glynn County’s best year.

Bed tax collections, which tourism officials use to measure overnight and longer stops, is on the rise.

The Golden Isles has $2.76 million in hand, putting the community close to reaching the record $2.8 million collected by this same time in 2008.

And the start of the official summer vacation season is still weeks away.

Scott McQuade, executive director of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, remains cautiously optimistic the trend will continue.

“Anything can happen,” McQuade said. “It can go terribly downhill from here, but we’re not anticipating that.”

There’s only two full months left in the bureau’s fiscal year, which ends June 30, and McQuade considers them to be “wild cards.”

But the signs are promising.

Spring showed an improving travel industry following the Great Recession and the bulk of tourism season is just around the corner.

“The big story that will be told is how we finish out the spring,” McQuade said.

The filming of the Paramount Pictures production, said by a state tourism official to be “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” will provide a boost between now and early May.

The impacts of increasing travel are being felt throughout the local tourism industry.

“We had a March that rivaled some of our best years,” said Missy Brandt, director of sales and marketing for the Village Inn and Pub in the St. Simons Island Pier Village.

She’s seen an increase in travelers from Florida and thinks tourists are still sticking close to home.

A busy spring that included a robust spring break season and an Ultimate tournament, which attracted more than 3,000 college students, were a big boost to Palm Coast Coffee Cafe and Pub, 318 Mallery St.

“As far as I’ve heard, this is the best year we’ve ever had,” said Caitlyn Walsh, a barista at the coffee shop and bar, which also is in the island village. “Everyone here is happy. Business is awesome. We’re glad to have everyone here vacationing.”

Whether a record is broken or not, it’s been a good year.

“I can say overall this is very positive news for our community,” McQuade said. “Not all destinations across the country are returning to record levels.”