Destin: A tourist destination

Kristiana Scott
Our class enjoyed the company of Stumpy the Gator while visiting Fudpucker’s, a tourist hotspot.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Log Reporter Kristiana Scott is a member of this year’s Destin Forward class. She will be filing stories monthly chronicling her experiences in the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.

When driving east into Destin, you’ll see a sign that reads, “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” And although Destin is much more than a village today, the statement holds true. Fishing on our beautiful Emerald Coast is one of many tourist attractions that keep visitors and anglers alike coming year after year, and keeps Destin’s economy running strong. 

As our Destin Forward class embarked on Tourism Day, we took a quick tour of the Destin History and Fishing Museum before hearing from some of the businesses that are responsible for the influx of tourists — vacation rentals, Big Kahuna’s, the Destin Fishing Rodeo. It might be the emerald green waters they come for, but they return because of the experience we provide them.

“We are responsible for radiating that life,” said Michelle Terry, vice president of Dale E. Peterson vacation rentals. “It’s a domino effect. Just making it a happier place to live and work — that’s what we locals need to do. We need to be ambassadors for our community.”

And when it comes to visitor demographics, most business owners are on the same page. The target demographic is a family with an annual income of more than $100,000 within an 8-hour drive. Realistic? Maybe not.

Lino Maldanodo, senior vice president of ResortQuest by Wyndham, explained, “It’s not that different people are now coming to Destin, but the fact is that people in general have less money. The economy affected all of us.”

But one thing is clear: Destin’s biggest concern is getting heads in beds and butts in seats.

After hearing from the panel of experts and enjoying lunch at Fudpucker’s, the class ventured to Henderson Beach State Park, a quiet gem in our bustling city. From there we headed to the docks to watch the Destin Fishing Rodeo weigh-ins. If you haven’t gone to watch the boats bring in their daily catch, you’re missing out — it’s a sight to see. Now in its 66th year, the Rodeo attracts hundreds of anglers and their families from all over the country to compete in the 31-day event. After all, Destin is “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”