As predicted, Key businesses are seeing a lot more tourists than usual this summer, thanks to that No. 1 beach ranking bestowed on Siesta Public Beach before Memorial Day weekend.
Anecdotal reports from the island’s law enforcement officers and the county’s code enforcement officer are borne out by statistics from local shops, rental companies and businesses, the Pelican Press has learned in interviews.
The Palm Bay Club on Midnight Pass Road has recorded a more than 20% surge in revenue this summer, Assistant Manager Carlin Strouse said, with its busiest May, June, July and August ever.
“Certainly the telephone’s ringing nonstop would suggest (help from the ranking),” Strouse said.
Just down the road, Siesta Sports Rentals on South Midnight Pass Road is seeing a similar spike.
“We had one of our busiest days ever yesterday,” owner Sheila Lewis said Aug. 12. “We’re exhausted. Let’s hope it’s the same next year, that (the tourists) don’t go off to where the next No. 1 beach is.”
Kevin Cooper, executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber’s latest statistics showed an 80% increase in mailings and a 10% hike in traffic on the chamber’s website for June compared to June 2010.
“This is working,” he added, referring to the No. 1 beach designation by Dr. Beach, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University.
“(Visitors) wanted to come see (the best beach),” said Scott Nance, resident manager at Conclare Vacation Rentals on Siesta Key.
“It’s been packed,” said Alicia Meer, a New York City resident who comes to the Key during the summer with her husband and daughter, of the Village. “There are tons and tons of people.”
For the first time she can remember in the summer, she said she and her husband are having to make dinner reservations for Friday and Saturday nights at Village restaurants.
Alina Michalowski, manager of Local Coffee + Tea in Davidson’s Plaza on Ocean Boulevard, said she recently had to wait in line about 20 minutes at Blu Smoke Island Grill, a previously unthinkable proposition for August.
“I have a lot of people walking into the coffee shop asking for the beach,” Michalowski said.
“A lot of people are here for the first time,” said Steve Hoffman, a manager at Beach Bazaar on Ocean Boulevard. Like Michalowski, he’s given his share of directions to the beach.
Every week as the summer has progressed, Tom Kouvatsos, co-owner of Village Café, said he and wife, Kay, kept expecting the customer traffic to die down. Every week, people have kept coming.
“We’re blowing last year away,” he said. “It’s been an unbelievable summer — these last six or seven weeks, especially.”
Kouvatsos said he and his staff had seen tourists from all over, including Canada. However, many customers have been from Florida’s east coast.
Lewis said a lot of people coming in to rent bicycles and kayaks had told her they had been summertime regulars in Key West. This year, because of the No. 1 ranking, they decided to check out Siesta Key.
“I remember last year, it started to slow down in August,” said Shelly Robinson at LeLu Coffee Lounge on Ocean Boulevard. “It’s been amazing … since we got No. 1.”
The past couple of weeks, she said, she’s seen many visitors from Italy and France.
At Davidson’s Drugs on Ocean Boulevard, Leslie Philips, who works the 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. shift every morning but Saturday, said she’d noticed many tourists with British or German accents and many families.
Not surprisingly, she said, the best-selling items for those visitors are what she called “beach stuff,” especially sunscreen and water,” along with lots of souvenirs.
Troy Syprett, co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck and the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar, said he felt the No. 1 ranking also had drawn people who had put off vacations for the past couple of years because of the recession.
He expects even more tourists over Spring Break 2012.
Still, Syprett said with a chuckle: “I have no complaints. After the last couple of years, anything’s an improvement.”