GOING FORWARD: Destin Forward talks tourism

Shelby DeSoto
sdesoto@waltonsun.com
The Destin Forward class spent the day learning about the tourism industry, where they spent part of the day visiting Fudpucker's in Destin.

Editor’s Note: Shelby DeSoto, reporter for The Walton Sun and Destin Log, 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.

Tourism is one of, if not the main source of income for this city. The 2016 Destin Forward class spent last Thursday learning the ins and outs of the tourism industry and its effect on Destin from the people who deal with it first-hand, the accommodations, attractions and events personnel.

We first heard from Ed Schroeder, director of the Tourist Development Council, who talked about the council’s marketing strategies. According to Schroeder, the TDC is making more marketing efforts to attract the higher income travelers.

The accommodations panel discussed their role in the tourism industry. Although the rental and resort properties compete with each other, they all mutually seem to agree that Destin is still coming back from the oil spill in 2010, but each year they have seen a steady increase in visitors.

When the class visited Henderson Beach State Park, we loved the view and the campsites, but as the park ranger stated, there is little funding and staff to help beautify the park. As the only state park in Destin, Henderson Beach can make a lasting impression on everyone who visits. Thankfully, the park has a volunteer group called “Friends of the Emerald Coast State Parks,” who help raise funds where needed.

The same can be said for those in the events and attractions industry. Those who were apart of the other panels noted that there is a need to keep their businesses fresh and interesting, while offering high quality entertainment at a low cost. This isn’t an easy task, and again, funding and sponsorship for these events is limited.

Throughout the day, from beginning at the chamber to wrapping up the day at the Destin Fishing Rodeo, each person who spoke to us said they always hear people say that Destin is a family-friendly vacation destination and that is why they come back year after year. After visiting our various stops like the Destin History and Fishing museum and feeding the alligators at Fudpucker’s in Destin, I couldn’t help but notice how true that statement is.

Destin offers so many activities to its visitors, but without the generosity and hospitality from those who live here, I don’t think we would have a very successful tourism industry. But it can be a catch 22. I know I complain during the summer because the traffic can be very hectic but this city thrives during those 100 days of summer. And even though the season is winding down, the economic impact tourism provides is great and if we offer help where it’s needed, maybe this city can make an even bigger impact in the years to come.

The Destin Forward class is a community-engagement program offered by the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce. For more information, see www.destinchamber.com.