That's a wrap: 'Its been incredible' 2015's record-breaking summer season by the numbers

Savannah Vasquez
svasquez@thedestinlog.com
This year Destin saw more than 2.5 million people visit it's beaches.

The kids have returned to school and the summer tourists have all returned home. The so-called "100 days of summer" from Memorial Day to Labor Day are over and so it’s time to crunch the numbers and see how summer 2015 compared to past years on the Emerald Coast.

For vacation rentals, Jeanie Dailey of Newman-Dailey Resort Properties Inc. said she is happy to report increases all around compared to past seasons.

“Last year was a strong season but this year was even stronger,” she said. “We’ve been able to increase our daily occupancy level by 10 percent every year while increasing our average daily rate (ADR) by almost 15 percent this year.”

Dailey said that in the past 10 years times have been hard for vacation rentals given hurricanes, the oil spill and the downturn in the economy, but this year has really turned it all around.

“It’s been incredible. It’s been so refreshing to have such a good strong vacation rental season after so many years of struggling,” she said. “It’s nice to come out on the other side after so many long hard years and drink the lemonade from all the lemons of the years past.”

The Destin harbor district has also been booming. HarborWalk Village Marketing and Public Relations Officer Jamie Hall said that this year has been extraordinary for the area retail and entertainment industry.

“This summer has been exceptional season for all of the HarborWalk Village merchants and families who visited,” she said. “The weather has been superb, the water quality, the fishing; all the attractions and enhanced experiences have made this summer by far the most successful in many years.”

The view from the beach was also a good one this season, as Beach Safety Chief Joe D’Agostino of the Destin Fire Control District told The Log the number of beach-goers has grown and safety has been maintained.

“We’ve had 2,544,000 people on the beach this year,” said D’Agostino. “That’s up, about 200,000 more people than last year.”

D’Agostino explained that the headcount does not equate the number of visitors to Destin, but instead the daily number of beach-goers recorded.

“The way it works is we count everyday how many people come to the beach,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that there were that many individual people but that is the total amount of people on the beach per season.”

This year, the Destin Beach Lifeguards had 52 employees patrolling from the East Jetty to the Walton County line with a total of 229 rescues.

“It was an eventful summer,” said D’Agostino. “We had the same amount of staffing as last year even though there was an increase in visitor attendance. We are just very busy, even now, because there are just more and more people every year recreating on our beaches.”

As for the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council, Director Ed Schroeder said this year’s statistics have revealed a record-breaking summer.

“Fiscal Year 2015 is a record year for tourism in our county,” Schroeder said. “The biggest growth came in the fall 2014, highlighted by a 30-percent increase in October 2014 over 2013. The momentum has continued in every month of the fiscal year with increases over fiscal year 2014 in each month.”

Schroeder detailed that Destin represents 60-percent of Okaloosa county’s total lodging inventory and this year produced 64-percent of lodging revenue for the county. Overall, for the fiscal year-to-date (Oct. 2014 to July 2015) Okaloosa county lodging revenue is up 13.1 percent over last year.

In dollars the numbers were even more impressive; the Tourist Development Tax collections exceeded $3 million for the first time in it’s history for the month of June, and set a new single-month record in July capping $3.7 million.

“New visitors came from every state in the country and dozens of countries,” said Schroeder. “Okaloosa is rising as the destination of choice in Northwest Florida with a more affluent customer overjoyed with the vacation memories created during their stay.”