With the unusual downpour the Key has seen in recent weeks, are tourists taking a rain check on their visits?
With constant rain almost every day, Longboat Key hasn’t exactly felt like part of the Sunshine State over the past month.
Tourists haven’t exactly been happy with the unusually high amounts of rain, but they’re still coming to the Key.
“This rain hasn’t affected tourism,” Chamber of Commerce President Gail Loefgren said. “It only affects people who go to the beach and do boating and fishing, but they’re still coming. They’re just looking for more things to do.”
Loefgren said in the summer on a sunny day, only four to six tourists will come to the chamber office. On a rainy day, she’ll see 15 people, all looking for things to do inside.
On stormy days, many indoor companies, such as the stores on St. Armands Circle, see an influx of business.
“When it rains, for us, it’s a good thing,” St. Armands Executive Director Diana Corrigan said. “People can’t go to the beach or to the golf course. They like to go shopping. Usually, when it’s rainy, I know the businesses will have more business.”
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium also sees a large increase in customers on a rainy day. On Monday, Aug. 3, which had heavy rainfall lasting most of the day, Mote had 2,145 visitors. The next day, Aug. 4, was sunny, and Mote only had 617 guests.
Unlike the indoor stores, restaurants and museums, however, many outdoor recreational companies are seeing the effects of the rain.
“Rain can be a wonderful thing or an absolute nightmare,” Capt. Wayne Genther, of Wolfmouth Charters, said. “Cooler air is more comfortable and the fish bite better, but the rain has definitely slowed us down. On the good days, we’ve had to do twice the amount of work we normally do to make up for the bad days. It’s definitely trying.”
In a typical July, Genther usually runs 50 charters. Because of the stormy weather last month, he was only able to run 30.
Backyard Bike Shop is also seeing decreased business because of the weather.
“It has slowed us down a little bit, but it’s nothing drastic,” co-owner Lisa Nichols said. “The two weeks in a row it was raining almost every day, some people still came and rode off on bikes. Some people return their bikes after renting a week or two and say they were only able to ride once or twice. They’re not really happy about it. They get just a week here, and the whole week, it rains.”
Not every outdoor company, however, finds the bad weather distressing.
“It’s been kind of nice,” Cannons Marina owner David Miller said. “It cut into a few boat rentals, but short of that, it was a welcome relief. June was so hot. Recently, we had a couple of weeks in the 80s, which was a real treat. If you’re here for the week and get any sort of break from the storm, people will still want to go out.”
Despite the lack of the ability to do the outdoor activities Longboat has to offer, hotel and rental companies are not seeing a shortage of tourists.
“While the weather has been a bit challenging over the past few weeks, we continue to experience high occupancies with few cancellations,” Sandra Rios, Longboat Key Club director of communications, said. “Fortunately, the resort offers many amenities that provide options to our guests.”
Florida Vacation Connections rental group, too, has felt little influence from the weather.
“It hasn’t been bothering us at all,” Director of Development and Marketing Tammy Halsted said. “People are still coming down and said they’re still coming down next year too. People know it will rain in the summer time, so it hasn’t affected us at all. Everything is status quo.”
Like many resorts, Sand Cay Beach Resort has a cancelation fee if visitors don’t cancel more than 30 days in advance, so guests will still come despite the bad weather
“People here have been disappointed because of the rain, but we’re still having a very good year,” General Manager Robert Ingraham said. “It’s one of the things out of our control, so they understand it’s not our fault. They’re still enjoying their time here.”
Although it has been unusually rainy even for rainy season, tourists are still coming, and businesses are happy with the lack of red tides, tropical storms and hurricanes. Because of this, Loefgren does not believe this rain will affect tourism next year.
“I tell them the Florida weather can change in 20 minutes because it can,” Loefgren said. “Mostly, they’re still grateful to be here even though it’s rainy. They say they’d rather be here than where they came from. It just really affects all the outside activities and the fact they can’t go to the beach, which they’re really sad about. They all want to go home with a tan.”