Spring break outlook bright in Brevard
Tourism officials all smiles this year
KEILANI BEST, FLORIDA TODAY
Noticing a few more out-of-state license plates around town, a bit more traffic, slightly larger crowds on the beach?
It’s spring break time on the Space Coast, and though this month and next are perennially among the bright spots in the tourism calendar here, officials and operators are particularly optimistic about how the 2011 version will play out.
Americans in general are starting to feel a bit more comfortable with their discretionary spending, and the first thing many want to do is enjoy a leisure activity. At this time of year, that often means traveling to a sunny, warm destination.
Bonnie King, assistant director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism, said spring break tourists are essential to the Brevard economy, not only because of what they do and spend during their visit but also because they tend to return other times of year and pump more money into the area.
But first things first.
Keri Hoskins, manager of Rum Runners Tavern & Grill in Cocoa Beach, said she expects to see an improvement in revenue this year compared with last year, with about two weeks of a large increase in business compared with just one week in 2010.
To encourage the crowds, the venue is hosting themed parties every Saturday from now through April 9, as well as offering $5 lunch specials, a happy hour with drink specials and live entertainment.
“We’re going to have a pretty decent year, and the next couple of weeks is when it’s really going to be in high gear,” she said.
The same rings true just down the street at Coconuts on the Beach. Manager Christina Artz reports that spring break is already going strong, and the events the venue is putting on just mean bigger crowds.
“We have a lot of live music and drink specials, a really, really good happy hour,” she said. “And we’re planning on some big beach full moon parties and bonfire parties.”
A survey by AOL Travel shows the optimism is playing out nationally.
In the survey, 72 percent of respondents said they have more or the same amount of money to spend on spring break this year compared with last year. And Florida was the most popular destination for a spring getaway.
Giles Malone, chairman of the county’s tourism council and president of the Cocoa Beach Pier, said last year’s cold snap, which extended well into March, put a damper on spring break. This year, spring break traffic already is “considerably up” over 2010.
“It’s very strong,” he said. “Business is up at the beach, and this great weather is helping that.”
Malone said events at the pier are already in full swing, including the Fed Ex concert series, which started last Saturday and will continue through March 19. Big crowds are expected at the Reggae Beach Splash on March 27 and the Easter Surfing Festival on April 22-24, both at the pier.
Hotels, which are still riding the success of sold-out bookings from the recent shuttle launch, also credit nice weather.
Judy Hutcherson, director of sales for La Quinta Inn in Cocoa Beach, said she’s seeing a lot of interest from tourists, lots of walk-ins and expects to at least be even with last year’s numbers.
“Every weekend (for spring break), we’re almost 90 percent occupied every Friday and Saturday through the month,” she said. “We’re doing pretty good, and I think it’s the weather.”
Depending on where they live, spring breakers usually have travel preferences, according to the AOL survey. This year, 75 percent of them will stay in the U.S. And of those who live in the Northeast, 42 percent are likely to head to Florida for some fun in the sun.
King said the county tends to get a good mix of college students and families.
“We have a regular clientele that comes here already, and they go to certain hotels,” she said. “They’re not the loud and obnoxious type. They just like to come here, and they like the diversity of the area.”
Rum Runners’ Hoskins said her customers include a mix of college students and snowbirds, whom she said are staying later this year, maybe in an attempt to avoid the lingering cold weather up north.
King said another plus is that tourists who visit the area during spring break are likely to return to vacation at other times and even tout the Space Coast to friends and family.
“We’re anticipating full rooms,” she said. “You can tell it’s already happening, you see the out-of-town license plates, you can see the traffic build up, and you can see people walking around. We just want our weather to hold out and hope they have a good time so they can come back (home) and tell people about us.”
Contact Best at 321 242-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to a recent spring break survey from AOL Travel:
· More than 60 percent of travelers are spending between $500 and $2,000 on their spring break.
· 80 percent of them say they will travel more than 250 miles. Fifty-eight percent will travel more than 500 miles.
· 75 percent of travelers are staying within the U.S., and Florida is the top traveled-to state.
· 42 percent of residents in the Northeast plan to visit Florida over spring break.
SOURCE: AOL Travel