By Martin Owen | Special to Destin.com
Hopefully when you woke up Christmas day you found Santa Claus had brought you everything on your wish list! All the tourists spending time with us here on the Emerald Coast over the holidays will be enjoying a great vacation, which has to be one of the best presents!
I asked a selection of people in the tourism business what they wished Santa would bring them Christmas morning. As you can imagine, the wishes ranged quite widely with some being very serious and others less so. Tourism is about enjoying yourself after all!
Some come under the heading of New Year’s resolutions, so we’ll look at those in the coming days.
I have to start with our publisher of the Northwest Florida Daily News, Diane Winnemuller, who said: “I would like to see destin.com and emeraldcoast.com become the premiere source for travelers when planning vacations and to book accommodations, tours, and other things to do.”
As we discussed last week, experiences and memories are the biggest wish that travelers want from their vacations. Websites that provide local knowledge are critical in providing access to those experiences.
One of the unique local experiences we have is Fudpucker’s, and Father Fud himself, Chester Kroeger, was hoping for, “A pair of tickets to London … so I can take my wife to see a play at the Globe Theater.” Good to see that you’re supporting international tourism, Chester — “To travel or not to travel, that is the question!”
TripShock is a company that provides tourists with the ability to book tours and activities across the region. They supply the “booking engine” for destin.com, emeraldcoast.com, flyvps.com and a host of other websites. Their CEO, Greg Fisher, said, “I’d like to see the county, city, and private entities working closer together to solve parking and infrastructure issues.”
This feeling was echoed by Okaloosa Airports Director Tracy Stage: “I ‘wish’ the state would put Highway 98 as the top priority and address the issue, design a plan and execute immediately. My concern is, as we grow service to our region from major metropolitan cities, families will not visit a second time to spend a majority of their vacation in traffic.”
Without doubt an increasing number of visitors will be flying into the Emerald Coast. Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport is now the fastest-growing airport in Florida, and their efforts to increase air services will be frustrated if our local infrastructure is not capable of handling those new tourists.
Carolyn Ketchel (Chair of the Board of Commissioners for Okaloosa County) added that she wished, “For a flight that goes south without going north. (A direct flight to Tampa or Orlando). A second wish would be more flights to the Northeast.”
My feeling is that we will see a lot of new air routes announced over the next few months.
Merry Christmas and see you in 2017.
Martin Owen is an independent consultant to the tourism industry and owner of Owen Organization in Shalimar. Readers can email questions to email@example.com.