owen-martinBy Martin Owen | Special to the Destin.com

Happy New Year!

Looking forward to 2017, I asked a number of local tourism leaders what their resolutions and wishes would be for the coming 12 months.

Ted Corcoran, President/CEO of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce: “I hope it rains only from Midnight to Sunrise and we have no man-made or Mother Nature inconveniences in 2017.”

From Visit Florida: “A wish in 2017 for a Florida with no Hurricanes, Algae or Zika!!!”

Dawn Moliterno, Regional Director of Operations for Wyndham Vacation Rentals: “I would love to see a crystal ball with white sand and emerald water that shows 2017 is full of good health, peace, love, patience, and prosperity for all. Some cookies would be great too!”

Darrel Jones, the Interim CEO of the Okaloosa Convention & Visitors Bureau: “For a very Happy, Healthy, Tourism Year, and that all County Residents would embrace the Tourism Industry.”

I’ll certainly agree with that. I’d love to see a campaign that encourages all of us locals to become tourism ambassadors, recognizing how important tourism is to our economy and welcoming the visitors with open arms and natural Southern charm.

On a separate note, I’d like to see our local and state leaders acknowledge how vital tourism is to the whole state, and that to compete with the rest of the country and the world, we have to have a fast-moving and professional marketing operation. Recent suggestions that Visit Florida’s budget should be cut is not sensible given that they return $380 for every dollar spent. It’s been suggested that the tourists would come even in the absence of marketing.

Don Fox, CEO of Firehouse of America LLC (The Firehouse Subs restaurant chain) and incoming Chair of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, said, “To suggest that in the absence of marketing, there would not be a reduction in tourism, is simply foolishness. Try that approach in business. Stop the promotion and marketing of your business, and only one thing happens. Business goes down.

“If our legislators need a lesson in basic business, I beg them to not learn at the expense of hard-working, taxpaying Floridians.”

Shane Moody, President/CEO of the Destin Chamber of Commerce, was very specific: “I’d like to see a higher average daily accommodation rate (ADR) that would help draw tourists with more vacation money to spend. I’d like for our retail, restaurant, fishing and attractions to enjoy revenue increases from more money spent by visitors. I’d like to see an incident-free summer, and happy times for all … not too many complaints and a lot of patience during the road construction due the Highway 98 widening!”

Patience with tourists is something we all have to learn. I’ve been a tourist in other places, and greatly appreciated the help and sympathetic directions from locals.

I’ll leave the last words to the Chair of the Okaloosa TDC, Dale Peterson: “I wish everyone directly or indirectly benefiting from tourism business a Merry Christmas Season and Prosperity in 2017!”

Martin Owen is an independent consultant to the tourism industry and owner of Owen Organization in Shalimar. Readers can email questions to martin@owenorganization.com.