Fernandina, in my opinion should be noted for it's right to the brand of the birth place of the modern shrimping industry. Always keeping the focus on the shrimping industry and what we can offer.
When folks who don’t live here think of Florida it’s usually in the sense of taking a vacation. Come to Florida and enjoy the sights, sounds and theme parks. I can’t think of any geographic area of Florida that hasn’t fought for its rightful share of the tourist dollar. From Amelia Island to Key West both on the Gulf and Atlantic coast line, not to mention all the attractions in between.
So what is happening to our tourist dollars and why are they drying up? The recession has put the brakes on the tourist movement; it’s no longer as strong as it once was. People are doing more ‘stay cations”, vacationing at home, (a contradiction in terms) however when a family has a reduced budget to work with blended with the fear of tomorrow and future paychecks, vacations seem to be at the bottom of the list of important issues.
What can a community do to increase tourist dollars? I would suggest to those in charge of attracting tourism, (whoever that may be) to rethink what they are offering. When you think of Orlando you automatically think of what, Disney and Sea World. When you think of Tarpon Springs you think of the sponge boats and a look at the old Greek Islands. If we mention St. Augustine we automatically think of the oldest city in the US. These are just examples of location branding.
A community must decide what they are noted for and come up with a brand, then offer it to the public. Fernandina, in my opinion should be noted for it’s right to the brand of the birth place of the modern shrimping industry. It should be capitalized on and then marketed not only globally but, and most important in a down economy, regionally. If families in SE Georgia are not taking cruises or vacations abroad then perhaps they could be lured to come to Fernandina for a weekend. Offering reduced room rates and buy one get one free on certain seafood dinners at local restaurants blended with discounts to local attractions may be just what the doctor ordered to stimulate tourism. Always keeping the focus on the shrimping industry and what we can offer.
I bet if the city or TDC (Tourist Development Council) searched hard enough they could find a shrimper with a boat willing to take people out and demonstrate how shrimp are caught. This alone could be another small business creating not only jobs but attracting more dollars. They do this in Tarpon Springs with the sponge divers diving and gathering sponges, and it is one of the major attractions to that area. Can you see a cart being pushed through the streets of downtown Fernandina giving away, (yes for free) samples of Fernandina shrimp along with a gift certificate allowing them a discount (good for tonight only, or maybe tonight and tomorrow night) a seafood meal at different restaurants, do you think after sampling our shrimp they would be interested in cashing in on their new found savings? I would bet they would, or at a minimum give the coupon to a friend to use. There are many things a community can do to increase tourist dollars. The one thing they must do first is to stop thinking as they did yesterday and began thinking of what makes sense today. The bottom line is simply using what you already have that will attract regional, national and global tourist dollars. We have the resources, do we have anyone with vision enough to see it, change it and make it happen?