Amelia Island Booms with Record-Breaking July 2015

Amelia Island Booms with Record-Breaking July 2015Amelia Island, FL – The Amelia Island Tourist Development Council (AITDC) has reported record-shattering numbers from its lodging partners for the month of July. According to new research, the record-breaking month saw hotels and resorts running at 86.3 percent occupancy – an almost 4 percent (3.6) increase over 2014 figures. Total revenue generated by those stays exceeded $12 million, representing a nearly 11 percent (10.8) increase over the same month last year.

“We’re having a very good year on Amelia Island,” said Gil Langley, managing director of the AITDC. “The numbers we’re generating are what you would expect in larger destinations such as Key West or Miami. And these figures don’t even include vacation home rentals or bed-and-breakfast inns, which are some of our most popular accommodators. We’re anxious to see how well those entities performed in July.”

The July performance follows a record-setting June, in which Amelia Island outperformed major tourism destinations in Florida based on reported occupancy and revenue per available room (REVPAR) figures. For the year-to-date figures, lodging on Amelia Island is at 76.3 percent occupancy, at an average room charge of $227 per night. Revenues are up nearly 10 percent (9.8) over 2014, with $68.1 million being generated in just seven months. REVPAR, an industry standard that indicates the health of the local hotel industry, is among the highest in the southeast at $173.

The AITDC also released their Second Quarter Visitor Profile, which showed 162,500 unique visitors stayed overnight on Amelia Island between April and June. A 5.9 percent increase over the previous year, those visitors had an economic impact on the community of almost $158 million. Most of the overnight traffic was from Georgia, followed by Florida and New York, with Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Orlando as the top three markets.

For the year to date, almost 313,000 overnight guests have visited Amelia Island, a 7.5 percent increase over 2014, generating $295 million in economic impact. That spending supported one in four private-sector jobs in Nassau County and generated 38 percent of the total sales tax collected.

“Tourism is clearly the economic anchor for Nassau County. We’re the largest private sector employer and generate a significant portion of state and county sales taxes,” Langley said.

“Our efforts to expand our reach into major northern markets such as New York, Boston and Chicago are clearly paying dividends,” Langley continued. “With the support of the Nassau County Commission, we’ve been able to expand our marketing efforts targeting visitors who stay longer and spend more. We’re excited about the growth of our industry, but want to move forward cautiously to insure that we can sustain this performance.”

Langley explained that while visitation in the second quarter has increased by 35 percent since 2011, economic impact over the same five years has increased by 60 percent. “We’ve been able to generate more revenue without an exponential growth in the number of visitors. Our goals are longer stays with greater expenditures by the travel party and obviously it seems to be generating good results.”

About Amelia Island
Northeast Florida’s coastal treasure, Amelia Island is a barrier island rich in colorful history and breath-taking natural beauty. Amelia Island offers long, beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife, and pristine waters. Upscale resorts with world-class spas, championship golf and exclusive dining blend effortlessly with a captivating collection of bed and breakfast inns and historic districts. The island is home to Fernandina Beach, once a vibrant Victorian seaport village, and now a charming downtown district of eclectic shops, attractions and eateries. Forget the everyday getaway; come make memories on Amelia Island.

For visitor information and online planning, visit

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Amelia Island Visitors Make Half-Billion Dollar Impact

Amelia Island Visitors Make Half-Billion Dollar Impact
Amelia Island visitors make half-billion dollar economic impact in 2014.

Amelia Island, FL – The Amelia Island Tourist Development Council (TDC) is reporting double-digit increases and new record high numbers for guests visiting the destination in fiscal year 2014. From October 2013 through September 2014, Amelia Island welcomed nearly 570,000 visitors, a 12.4 percent increase over 2013. The resulting economic impact of $504,673,000 is a 19.5 percent increase from the previous year. Direct spending on lodging, dining, sightseeing and other tourist activities also increased to $383,577,600, a 19.5 percent increase.

“Thanks to a lot of hard work and many favorable conditions, it’s been another great year for tourism on Amelia Island,” said Gil Langley, Managing Director of the Amelia Island TDC. “This marks the fourth consecutive year of tourism growth for Amelia, which continues to develop as one of the top island destinations in North America.”

The TDC recently released results of its 2014 Visitor Profile conducted by Research Data Services, Inc. The report showed increases in occupancy (6.3 percent), Average Daily Rate (6 percent) and Revenue per Available Room (12.6 percent) over 2013.

According to the report, the majority of visitors to Amelia Island originate in the southeastern United States and Florida, with continued growth from the northeast and Midwestern states. Most notably, foreign visitation was up by 26.9 percent in 2014, with nearly 24,000 international overnight guests.

The 2014 Visitor Profile also shows an average length of stay at 4.4 nights, with approximately 2.8 people in each party. More than 55 percent of visitors were vacationing on Amelia Island for the first time and 98 percent of all visitors were satisfied with their experience at the destination.

According to Langley, the island’s lodging partners generated more than $112 million in taxable revenue last fiscal year. Generating more than 38 percent of the total sales tax collections in Nassau County, tourism is a critical component to the economic vitality of the destination.

One in four jobs in Nassau County are supported by the tourism industry, with the Omni Amelia Island Plantation and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island being the two largest private sector employers in the county. Recent expansions and job opportunities at the two resorts have helped lower the county’s unemployment rate to 5 percent, which is lower than the state average of 6 percent, Langley added.

Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

About Amelia Island
Northeast Florida’s coastal treasure, Amelia Island is a barrier island rich in colorful history and breath-taking natural beauty. Its long, beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife and pristine waters have made the island a favorite destination for outdoor adventure. Upscale resorts with world-class spas, championship golf and exclusive dining blend effortlessly with a captivating collection of bed and breakfast inns and historic districts. The island is home to Fernandina Beach, once a vibrant Victorian seaport village and now a charming downtown district of eclectic shops, attractions and eateries.

Forget the everyday getaway; Come make memories on Amelia Island. For visitor information and online planning, visit

Feedburner If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below or subscribe to the feed to have future articles delivered to your e-mail and get the latest Amelia Island News, business, tourist activities and videos every morning!

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Omni Amelia Island Plantation breaks ground on $88m expansion

Omni Amelia Island Plantation 2011 Expansion

Omni Amelia Island Plantation 2012 Expansion and Renovation

A bit over a year ago TRT Holdings Inc., owner of Omni Hotels & Resorts in Texas, won a bidding battle and bought the famous with bankruptcy courting Amelia Island Plantation for $67.1 million. A sigh of relief was heard across the Island, where some 500-600 residents are employed at the resort. Disaster was avoided, but what’s more, in OMNI the island found a partner with vision and the means to follow through on that vision.

Today, with a ceremony scheduled to be attended by Florida Governor Rick Scott, the resort will begin an $88 million dollar expansion and renewal project that will turn the resort into the OMNI Group’s Flagship Resort.
The entire expansion and renewal includes:
• 155 new guestrooms with 20 suites for a total of 404 ocean view hotel rooms .
• Two new restaurants, including a Bob’s Steak & Chop House, bringing the total on property restaurants to 11.
• 20,000 additional square-foot of meeting space which along with other expansions will increase the conference center to almost 70,000 square feet.
• A consolidated new welcome center to improve and centralize visitor check in. This will be incorporated in a new oceanview lobby overlooking an infinity edge pool through floor to ceiling viewing windows, of course with an focus pointed oceanview bar.
• The Beach Club will furthermore be enhanced with 2 pools, 50% more water and expansive lounge decks that give space to additional food and beverage service points and expanded restroom facilities.
• The addition will add about 100 employees to the current 700 once it’s finished in the Spring of 2013.

Ocean Side Artist Rendering of OMNI Amelia Island Plantation

Site Plan of OMNI Amelia Island Plantation after Expansion Improvements

We were privy to a preview by General Manager Tim Digby a couple of weeks ago in City Hall, when he explained that the biggest challenge had been to tighten up the entire resort for the challenges of the future. Deep studies were done on tree preservation, how to better connect the various parts of the resort with better accessibility to the expanded retail village and parking solutions. Looking at the architectural drawing and site plans, OMNI has managed to find some quality solutions for the 1,350 acre resort.

Mr. Digby also revealed that the additions reflect a change in marketing philosophy for the resort.“With the group that was here prior,” he said, “the major emphasis on was social/vacation visitors and less on conventions. “We’re really focusing on the larger conventions.” Digby said the market for vacationers is fickle and highly competitive. It leaves hotels vying to book a room here and there. With conventions, you can book 250 rooms in one shot. The hotel’s target is to fill 70 percent of its rooms with conventions,” he said.

Considering that the total of island’s hotel accommodations are looking at an occupancy rate just other 60%, he just may be right with that objective.

Publisher’s Note: Apologies for the quality of photos as they were taken from the Powerpoint projection in the angle I was sitting to the screen.

Florida’s Tourism and its Impact on our Community

SeaWorld's planned Discovery Cove Freshwater Oasis attraction scheduled to open next Spring

Orlando’s Theme Parks are the biggest tourism attraction in the world with 54.3 million visitors last year. Just 40 years ago Orlando’s number of visitors was right about ZERO. Attractions bring visitors and even though Amelia Island’s tourism has been relatively blessed in recent years, all surveys indicate that we need more attractions.
Even in a faltering economy we have been able to attract a slightly lower but still good share of visitors. In 2010 we scored beyond expectation as a result of the Gulf Oil Disaster and the ongoing misery in air travel caused by over protected security, followed by increased fees, ticket prices and capacity adjustments, which has made many more people choose car travel as their transportation option for vacations and family get-a-ways. Naturally within easy driving distance of some major Metropolitan populations, Amelia Island has been able to carve out a nice and steady  presence with a remarkable 3.6 return visits. But the future might demand more that we’re offering right now. History and culture offer great attraction potential, so does anything offering water attraction, both fresh and salt.

During a recent Tourism Development Council presentation at City Hall, elaborating on the numbers scored in the third quarter of 2011, it showed that even though we attracted 7,700 less visitors than in the same period of 2010, the 112,500 visitors that stayed with us last quarter, spent a little more than the ones last year, so that the economic impact only showed a 3.3% drop. And that should be a feather in the hat of the TDC in these tough times.

A more in depth study into the numbers of this Visitor Profile Report, further reveals where our visitors come from. Two out of three visitors originate from the Southeast including Florida, which obviously coincides with he fact that three out of four report to arrive here by car. For policy reasons this is an important indicator for future infrastructural needs. For example a rudimentary calculation reveals that between July 1 and September 30, besides local traffic, our roads were used daily by an estimated 1,500 cars belonging to visitors (the calculation includes % of visitors coming by car -average 3 per car- multiplied by the division of 90 day period divided by 4.6 days average stay). Why is this important? Because if all these 1,500 cars decide to show up in downtown on one particular morning, traffic will be demonic and there won’t be enough parking spaces for miles. It is also important to re-analyze parking meter impacts in a hard reality scenario. Like anyone living here I love the fact that visitors are not nickeled and dimed to death, as long as we are not treated as the ones who need to support the financial picture of the City.
1,500 cars multiplied by a very reasonable $5 a day, multiplied by 365 days, may just be enough to take a loan out to renovate the old Post Office on Centre Street into a multi functional attraction and pay the debt service for some much needed attractions. With the Postmaster General posting a $5 billion debt yesterday and a clear warning for an upcoming bankruptcy, I think we should be pro-active on the future of that magnificent building in downtown as US Postal Services will wash its hands of it.

OMNI Amelia Island Plantation believes in this island and its future as a tourism magnet. Sure at $69 million, they got the Plantation in a bargain deal last year, but to allocate $88 million dollars for renovation and expansion in this still sputtering economy, reveals longterm vision and confidence; vision and confidence that this island needs to match, rather than assuming a small town mentality  and cower in a corner about something as important as Forward Fernandina. I’m not saying that everything in the FF plan meets my or your personal wishes, but how could it ever. You are you and I am I and we have different realities, wish lists, perceptions and backgrounds.

The only thing we really do have in common is a love for the island and the lifestyle it affords us. And when studying numbers that display what our visitors like about our island and/or find lacking or missing, I see two areas that need immediate addressing for the future of tourism here on island.

One: less than one out of ten visitors is impressed by our attractions and
Two: only one in six visitors says they enjoyed our nightlife

Obviously these two issues are surrounded by opposing emotions as has been shown in the past, but that still doesn’t eliminate the need to address these topics adequately for a successful future as a tourism destination.

The Need to Have a Vision for the Future

Amelia Island is in dire need of a number of small/mid-scale, sustainable attractions for the future of its tourism economy. From a strategic AND interactive planetarium to an interactive pirate museum, an interactive car museum, a water park with giant surf waves, an artificial snow ski piste, a boulodrome, and so on are options. The world is full of successful examples. I saw one about 6 years ago when I lived in Kenosha Wisconsin for a short 9 months. The attraction was a 35 minute Toy Train tour through the warehouse of the Jelly Belly Bean Company.  The company has been doing this for decades every day of the week from 9am to 4pm. Imagine how many hundreds of thousands of people have visited this simple attraction.

Fifty years ago, Orlando Florida did not mean anything to anyone in the world and for those who knew about it, it portrayed a mosquito hole in the central Florida swamps. Not until Disney opened in 1971 and SeaWorld 2 years later, would anyone go to Orlando for a vacation. Orlando’s hot tourist market which drew a record 53.4 million visitors this year despite the weak economy is expected to heat up more than ever with a new theme park that will make visitors feel they’re in the ice fields of Antarctica.
I know I’m taking a giant leap here, only for the purpose of explaining why our big attraction to the South called Orlando is today the hottest tourist market in the world. Orlando did not follow the market, it created the market. The companies that operate Orlando’s Theme Parks teach us where travel, tourism and entertainment is going. They are the masters of marketing and not looking at them for some type of guidance towards the future of tourism here, is economic suicide.

Earlier this week Sea World’s Empire of the Penguin was announced to open in 2013 . Backers of the almost 40-year-old Sea World Corporation in an area that has become the world capitol of theme parks, say it is a move to further solidify Orlando’s position as the No. 1 tourist destination in the world.

The unveiling outlined three additions “designed specifically for this park and the market. You can’t see them or experience them anywhere else on the planet,” said Brian Morrow, creative director.
The new park will feature an entire section of shops and restaurants with an interactive ride at its center. Tourism observers compare it to the wildly successful Harry Potter attraction at Universal Orlando, according to AP.
Parts of the experience will also include a radical (but unspecified) temperature change that chief designer Morrow says will create “the coldest attraction ever constructed.”
Dennis Speigel, a Cincinnati-based theme park consultant, told AP that SeaWorld’s expansion is “a big move on their part. It follows suit with what Universal did with Harry Potter and what Disney is doing with some of their properties. A manatee and sea turtle exhibit in a domed 3-D theater, the chance to wade and swim next to Asian otters and marmosets, and a penguin experience that promises to immerse tourists in the middle of Antarctica will be on hand at SeaWorld Orlando over the next two years.
SeaWorld’s “TurtleTrek” exhibit, with tanks of live sea turtles and manatees and a domed theater featuring computer-generated 3-D images, will open next spring. Also launching next spring: a “Freshwater Oasis” at SeaWorld’s adjacent swim-with-the-dolphins boutique park, Discovery Cove. That attraction will put visitors in a clear spring under a rainforest-type canopy of trees to wade and swim next to Asian otters and marmosets.

I think it’s very timely and smart for SeaWorld Orlando to undertake this huge investment in a weak economy. It is typically anti-cyclical, which means that labor is cheaper than in boom times, better material pricing and construction contracts can be negotiated, even borrowing money is cheaper than in a booming economy.

6 Mega Cruise ships drop 25-30,000 people in Philipsburg St.Maarten every day. Most buy a Coke and use the bathrooms while eating and shopping aboard ship. Talking about a night mare.

Amelia Island has few and limited Attractions

The numbers already show that Amelia Island has several solid attractions to further expand its tourism industry on. The beaches, the historic downtown area and a substantial number of crowd attracting Festivals have proven their values. I hope that the island’s population and newly elected city government can look beyond the length of their noses, to see what the island’s future needs in terms of sustainable attractions. Anyone out there who remembers the New York Experience in the McGraw Hill Building on Fifth Ave in New York City? “The New York Experience” was a 55-minute multimedia, shock-and-awe extravaganza that showcased all the things that make Gotham great. From its early history. It ran from the early 1970s to the late 1980s and if McGraw-Hill would have had a little more on its greedy mind than wondering at what point Standard and Poor would become a millstone around their corporate neck, there would have an impeccable interactive, highly entertaining history of the city for millions to enjoy. Something like the New York Experience for this island that had far more importance to the birth of the United States than St.Augustine or Pensacola, would be a perfect marriage for the statuesque Replica of a Castle in Venice Italy on our Centre Street, that was always wasted on being used as a Post Office.

We need decisions now, or else the future of our picturesque Historic Downtown could be defaced by the economic need in the future to allow Cruise Tourism to come on shore. And if you need an impression of that nightmare click Here.