Visitor Center location changed from A1A to SR100; Flagler Tourism records a good year

After two and a half years of searching for a welcome center on State Highway A1A in Flagler Beach, and at least two opportunities there that went off the rails for one reason or another, Flagler County Visitor Center moves its focus for a prospective visitor center to State Road 100, on county land near the new pedestrian bridge.

Several factors led to this shift, says Amy Lukasik, Flagler County Tourism Director. One is focused on ecotourism: a site next to the pedestrian bridge would be linked to trails and a green corridor. Another was last fall’s hurricanes, which “give you a moment’s pause” on locating a visitor center right on the beach. “It’s very vulnerable there,” she said.

It was envisaged to place the reception center at the foot of the pedestrian bridge. This will not be possible because this segment of land is restricted to conservation uses. However, just west of it – the area used as a staging area by bridge construction crews – would host the center. There’s even a turn lane on State Road 100.

The location could potentially still benefit from a Federal National Roads Grant that would help build the center. “Remember, this exit on the 95 and 100 is the closest point on Interstate 95 to the ocean for the entire East Coast of the United States,” said County Commissioner Dave Sullivan, who chairs the Tourism Development Council.

Lukasik said a location on A1A would have been linked to local businesses through golf cart tours and the like. “It can still happen. It might not be out of the gate,” Lukasik said. “It may just look different.”

The TDC is an advisory body made up of representatives from local government (the county, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach) and tourism-related businesses. He oversees a $4 million budget generated by revenue from the county’s 5% tourist surcharge on hotels, motels and short-term lodging. The TDC meets quarterly and makes spending and policy recommendations which are then ratified (or, more rarely, rejected) by the County Commission. No proposals to purchase land on A1A were presented to the Commissioners’ dais, although two were considered.

In 2020, the Tourism Development Board considered purchasing the former Bank of America building across from the Flagler Beach Pier, for 1 million dollars. The county had little time to explore this possibility before it disappeared. The 6,500 square foot building was sold to Pinchas Mamane, a Daytona Beach property manager, in January 2021 for $1.1 million.

Last year, the tourist board was in talks to acquire a package of 1.5 million dollars at South 9th Street and State Road A1A. Cost was a big challenge, as were issues of location, not quite downtown.

Lukasik spoke about the potential new location in an interview Monday after his annual State of Tourism Address at the Palm Coast Community Center, an invitation-only event attended by some 50 to 60 people, including elected county officials and residents. cities.

Lukasik summarized the economic impact of tourism on the county for fiscal year 2021, which brought nearly one million overnight visitors to the county, up 68% from the previous year, affected by covid. These visitors spent more than half a billion dollars in the county and were responsible for 4,400 jobs in the county, or 17% of the total. Hotel, motel and short-term rental sales totaled $79 million, with 60% occupancy for the year.

The average daily rate in hotels and motels was $123, compared to $203 for a vacation rental. There is no figure for the average rate in Airbnb-type accommodations, although they also account for a large portion of tourism revenue. (To see more detailed figures hereand that of Lukasik full presentation here.)

“While the revenue we collect from the tourism development tax is essential to our existence and allows us to diversify our funding into a variety of programs and initiatives to improve our community,” Lukasik said, “which is often missed and can often be forgotten is the indirect domino effect visitors have when they come to Flagler County.To illustrate her point, she showed a video which, at the time of this publication, had been viewed 24 times since it appeared on the county’s tourism website a month ago:

Resort tax revenue is split three ways: 60% goes to Flagler County marketing and advertising, with the majority of this market coming from visitors within driving distance: the I-4 corridor, Orlando, St. Johns, Volusia, but also Atlanta and New York markets. This pot of money also included in 2021 some $230,000 in grants for sporting, business and cultural events that attracted visitors from outside the county.

20% of revenue goes to capital funding, fundraising for projects that at least partially cater to out-of-county visitors: Flagler Beach Pier A-frame repairs a few years ago qualified years, a new marquee for the qualified Flagler Auditorium, and last year a $739,000 grant went to Palm Coast‘s “Southern Recreational Facility,” which will be an expansion of the Tennis Center off Belle Terre Parkway, connected at the trailhead to the Lehigh Trail and a community center. (This is the grant that Flagler Beach notoriously failed to applyprovoking a tumult.)

An additional 20% is devoted to the preservation and renewal of beaches, although this amount is tiny compared to the needs. Several years ago, the commission increased the proportion of money going into this pot. But the ratio is unlikely to change again, Sullivan said, despite the immense needs ahead — or rather, because immense future needs.

“Of course it would make a difference. But we’re talking about $100 million in coastal repair needs right now, Sullivan said. “And that’s still not enough to do what we want to do. Everything would be $200 million.

All in all, Lukasik painted a bright picture for the local tourism economy and for Florida, where she said there were no signs of slowing down. “One of our TDC members, Pam Walker, is a travel agent and every Friday she sends her a weekly email to her database,” Lukasik said. “This one last Friday, the subject line said, ‘This is insane.’ And she talks about how, as a travel agent, she works with tour operators on the ground all over the world. She has a lot of challenges. First, she can’t get them to answer her calls because they’re so busy. And prices for tours and packages, hotels and airlines, she said, just skyrocketed. So people are willing to pay. The demand is still there, especially in Florida, where we were obviously one of the first states to recover tourism-wise, you don’t see any signs of slowing down.

The presentation took place Monday at the Palm Coast Community Center.  (© FlaglerLive)
The presentation took place Monday at the Palm Coast Community Center. (© FlaglerLive)
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