Amelia Island Tourism: A Year of Growth

Spending at tourism-related businesses in Nassau County, Florida accounts for 36 percent of the county’s taxable sales. The 2011 fiscal year marked the second consecutive year for increases in both tourism demand and revenue on Amelia Island.

Amelia Island Near Condo Pier (Central Island off South Fletcher)
Folks enjoying a beach walk on Amelia Island (near condo pier off South Fletcher Ave.)

YEAR IN REVIEW: Looking back on fiscal year 2011, Amelia Island’s tourism numbers show growth in demand and sales revenues.

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. – The tourism industry on Amelia Island continued to recover from the “Great Recession” during the 2011 fiscal year (FY2011), generating more than $331 million in economic impact in Florida’s Nassau County.

According to a study conducted by the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council (AITDC), the island hosted more than 432,000 overnight guests in the 12-month period ending September 2011. Spending at tourism related businesses such as lodging and dining establishments increased 5.4 percent from the previous year, accounting for 36 percent of taxable sales in the county.

“We’re certainly not back to pre-recession levels yet, but are clearly headed in the right direction,” said Gil Langley, Managing Director of the AITDC. “This marks the second consecutive year we’ve seen increases in both demand and revenue on the island. Our challenge in the coming year is to keep growing in the face of more robust competition for visitors’ attention and dollars.”

Smith Travel Research, a leading lodging research company, reported that hotel occupancy, rate and revenue all improved on Amelia Island in FY2011. The Revenue Per Available Room (REVPAR), the most common indicator of a healthy lodging industry, increased by 6.9 percent on island last year. The total number of rooms sold by hotels on the island increased 3.5 percent, while revenue from room sales improved 6.4 percent.

“As sales have improved, the travel industry has been adding back jobs lost in previous years,” Langley noted. “Almost 4,000 people are employed by travel-related businesses – that’s nearly 22 percent of the Nassau County workforce.”

“Nassau County is much more dependent on tourism than the average county in Florida,” said County Commissioner Danny Leeper, who serves as chairman of the AITDC. “Tourist spending statewide makes up about 22 percent of taxable sales, while here the number is more than 36 percent. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation is the largest private sector employer in the county, with a workforce of more than 1,000 people. One in five people in the county work in the travel industry, making a healthy tourism industry vital for our community.”

Langley said he expects growth to moderate in 2012, but anticipates business to accelerate in 2013 with the completion of the re-imagined Omni Amelia Island Plantation. Construction on the expansion of the resort began in November and will last 18 months. When completed, the project will add 155 rooms to the resort and bring meeting and convention space to more than 70,000 square feet. Total cost of the project exceeds $85 million.

The Omni re-imagination follows a $50 million renovation and expansion of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island that included a new 11,000-square-foot ballroom. In 2009, the Residence Inn, Amelia Island opened after a $20 million construction program.

“When you consider how difficult the economic conditions have been, it speaks volumes that the private sector has invested almost $200 million in Amelia Island’s hospitality industry over a three-year period,” said Langley. “With the TDC continuing its aggressive marketing efforts to support that development, the future looks bright.”

Source: Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau