Tourism officials expect banner Memorial Day weekend

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 03:02 PM.

In Santa Rosa County, bed tax collections are up 7 percent for the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2102. Tourist Development Council director Kate Wilkes said she expects that to continue through the summer season.

“I anticipate a good summer without any hurricanes,” Wilkes said. “I’m just hearing positive things. I usually hear if things are bad, and I’m not hearing that. One (bed tax collector) said she just needs more inventory.”

Although local tourism professionals expect this to be the busiest Memorial Day weekend on record, AAA Auto Club projects 34.8 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home. If accurate, that would be 0.9 percent less than last year.

“We are seeing a little bit of a decline this year,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA. “The economy has been seeing some up and down growth, sequestration continues causing uncertainty and that makes job growth relatively slow.”

Although AAA projects a slight decline in travelers, Jenkins said the results of a recent survey it conducted indicated a 5 percent increase in overall summer travel.

“Where things could be off to a relatively stable start, they should pick up as the summer progresses,” he said.

Northwest Florida is the second most popular drive-to destination in Florida, but the Memorial Day holiday also has greatly increased traffic at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

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