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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Here’s why tourists flock to us

By JACQUE ESTES
NEWS-JOURNAL CORRESPONDENT

Visitors come to Flagler County by cars, boats and private planes. Reasons for visiting the county vary, from family vacations to business trips.

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As spring break rages on in Daytona Beach, visitors of all ages fill Flagler Beach, Wednesday, March 17, 2004. (Photo: News-Journal/Brian Myrick)

It is estimated that they spend an average of $90 per day on food, lodging and general shopping while they are here.

There are 963 rental units available in a variety of hotels, motels, condominiums and bed and breakfasts in Flagler County. That number will increase to 1,578 rentals in 2004 with the addition of six more hotel/condominiums being opened in the area.

“This means that more people are coming to see our area,” said Linda Jarosz, executive assistant for the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. “A two percent bed tax goes back to the county to promote the area. I don’t ever see us being a Daytona Beach and we don’t want to be.”

For many, coming to Flagler Beach means just that – a day at the beach. Staying in Flagler Beach has a unique regional appeal. Instead of major hotel or restaurant chains, visitors find small hotels they won’t find anywhere else in the country.

“Flagler Beach made a conscious effort to keep the city a quaint seaside village,” Jarosz said. “It is part of the allure of Flagler Beach.”

Two projects, the Rails to Trails and the A1A Scenic Highway designation, have attracted many nature enthusiasts to the area.

“Eco-tourism is growing in our area. There are people who come here just to kayak,” she said. “They have created a well-rounded tourist destination.”

Larger chain hotels and popular restaurants can be found in the City of Palm Coast.

“Oftentimes, businessmen will bring their families with them and they will stay in Palm Coast,” Jarosz said. “This is also a popular place for golfers to come and, of course, people traveling Interstate 95 stop for a night.”

In the near future, Jarosz expects to see an additional hotel built next to the new Home Depot.

“It is right off the highway, which makes it a logical place to build,” she said.

The Flagler County Airport is a municipal airport that has seen growth and increased traffic from private aircraft coming into town.

“When Jack Nicklaus came while the Grand Haven golf course was being developed, he flew into the Flagler airport on his Lear Jet,” she said.

The increase in private air traffic also may result in a hotel being built on State Road 100 in the general area.

“The airport traffic is growing and there will be a need for a place to stay,” she said.

When looking through past Chamber meeting minutes, Jarosz said she discovered an ongoing subject – the need to widen S.R. 100.

“There has been a recurring theme for the past 40 years to widen State Road 100 to four lanes,” she said. The road is scheduled to be expanded to four lanes in 2005.

For many, a trip to Florida means setting sail. Flagler accommodates these visitors as well.

“There is a full service marina at the Palm Coast Golf Resort,” she said.

Every section of Flagler County has some form of development under way. Marineland is developing condominiums and planning new restaurants and shops to complement the sea aquarium.

“Marineland is restructuring itself,” Jarosz said.

“The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce is working with the Tourist Development Council to help build relationships with other tourism boards,” she said. “In Florida, tourism is a major industry. That’s just a fact. We want to have a comprehensive growth and bring tourism to Flagler while staying family-oriented without congestion.”

Fast Facts

Here’s a glimpse of our visitors for 2003:

  • Fifty-five percent of visitors stayed in hotels or motels, 23 percent in private homes and condos, 22 percent in other accommodations.

  • Fifty-six percent stay 1-3 nights, 34 percent 4-7 nights.

  • Average age of adult traveler, 46 years.

  • Thirty-four percent visit in summer, 27 percent in spring, 24 percent in winter, 15 percent in fall.

  • Reasons for visiting: 77 percent, leisure; 24 percent, business.

Source: D.K. Shifflet and Associates for the Northeast Vacation Region made up of Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

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