I was flicking though a newspaper the other day, the UK’s Daily Telegraph, and article caught my eye – ‘Why it’s cool to be a tourist, not a pretentious traveler’ (Read it HERE). It got me thinking….

Tourist, Traveler or Visitor?

Firstly I have to confess I wasn’t physically flipping through a newspaper made out of crushed up trees, I was reading the on-line version. I suppose therefore I was simply bothering a bunch of electrons, but that added to pondering as to how our perceptions have changed.

For example, does reading an on-line newspaper make me less of a reader? When we were actually reading a ‘paper’ paper, our eyes would fall on stories that wouldn’t immediately be our target interest. That expanded our reading list and maybe we found opinions that we didn’t agree with, or subjects that weren’t initially in our wheelhouse. It did give us a wider knowledge and leave us open to new thoughts and opinions. It broadened our view. These days we tend to select our interests and have the electrons present us with just what we expect and with which we are comfortable. Maybe we sit in a little bubble of our own making? Only exposed to our own interests and views.

How does this relate to the traveler versus tourist issue? The article pointed out that some folks consider themselves to be more sophisticated than the average and therefore their wanderings were in some way superior to your run of the mill tourist. The ‘travelers’ (actually it was a British article, so they were ‘travellers’ with two Ls!) considered that their experience was somewhat superior to a tourist. Along with the author, I initially thought this attitude was pretentious in the extreme.

As an aside, a number of areas around Florida have names like The Forgotten Coast, The Space Coast, The Emerald Coast etc. There’s one area I’ve always called The Pretentious Coast. Any ideas where that may be?

While it’s true that someone who travels, is a traveler, and a tourist is by definition “A person who is visiting a place for pleasure and interest, especially when they are on vacation”, there do appear to be a whole bunch of different types of tourists.

There are those who visit an area to gain extra knowledge, cultural tourists, eco-tourists, adventure tourists, even health tourists traveling to seek medical attention they can’t get at home. One assumes these all gain something from their experience and hope that they also contribute to the local economy or culture. Certainly the hope is that they do not purposefully detract from the place they are visiting.

There is a type of tourist that actually does little or nothing for either the area that they visit or for themselves it would appear. I’d suggest that these are folks that travel to a destination but then behave just as they would at home or possibly even behave in a way that wouldn’t be accepted at home. These would be the ones that bring everything with them. They experience nothing of the local culture, and contribute little to the local economy. They may be the ones that just come to party uncontrollably, ending up in jail, hospital or worse.

Now, each to his own and I wouldn’t dare to suggest that what one person finds fun is the only way, but it does strike me that there are various levels of tourism. Some are more desirable to a destination than others. I’m sure The Machu Pichu Tourist Board wouldn’t target bachelor or bachelorette parties, but on the other hand would Panama City Beach expect to receive too many groups studying the works of da Vinci?

Without a doubt some travelers get more out of their experience than others but would we term them Travelers as opposed to Tourists? What’s wrong with being a tourist?

TALKING TOURISM: Breweries could offer a new tourism niche

This article appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Sunday May 13, 2017

Our third president, Thomas Jefferson said “Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.” He could have course said the same thing about tourism, particularly if combined with beer!

I recently visited Asheville, North Carolina, on a research mission – OK, it was vacation but I’ll stick with my story. We took in tours of a couple of breweries – New Belgium and Sierra Nevada both have large establishments there. These are craft brewers, albeit big ones who needed to have presence on the East Coast. Both companies started up out west and have found the combination of location, water supply and culture in Asheville matched their needs. There are also smaller brewers located in the area along with hard cider makers. The interesting thing is that these companies have become an integral part of the local tourist industry.

To read the rest of the column, please click HERE

TALKING TOURISM: There’s financial benefit to dog-friendly accommodations

This article appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Sunday May 6, 2017

A couple of years ago I got into a conversation with the general manager of a very large hotel that is known for its attention to detail and 5-star accommodations. It’s also a large conference hotel, so it’s not a small “boutique-style” location.

We got talking about niche markets; those parts of the customer base that have particular needs and wishes. It appeared that the hotel was given the chance to become the host hotel for the largest dog show in the U.S. and her conference department could not pass up the chance for the amount of business the show would bring. Naturally, she was more than concerned at the thought of literally hundreds of dogs staying at a 5-star establishment.

To read the rest of the column please click HERE.

Tourism leader supports beach access for pups

This article appeared in the Northwest Florida Daily News on Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Like other parts of Northwest Florida, Okaloosa County could attract a lot more economy-boosting visitors by opening a portion of its beaches to dogs.

That’s according to Martin Owen, a Shalimar-based tourism industry consultant who regularly attends Tourist Development Council meetings.

“It’s niche tourism we can attract, particularly out of season,” he said Thursday. “A lot of dog owners tend to like traveling with their dogs. Our neighboring counties are addressing this, and so is Okaloosa.”

County Marine Economic and Tourist Development Resource Coordinator Erika Zambello shared information with the TDC on Thursday about dog-friendly beaches in Walton County and Pensacola Beach in Escambia County. But she said she has not had any discussions with other Okaloosa County officials about establishing a dog-friendly section of beach.

With the exception of service animals and police dogs, dogs are prohibited on the publicly owned beaches of Okaloosa County, Destin and Santa Rosa County. In Walton County, property owners and permanent residents can bring their leashed dogs on the beach during certain hours and with a permit.

People who violate Okaloosa County’s law pertaining to dogs on the beach could be cited with a fine of at least $100. But such citations are rarely given, county officials said.

Usually, sheriff’s deputies will ask violators to remove their dogs from the beach and the dog owners do so without a problem, county spokesman Rob Brown said.

To read the rest of the article CLICK HERE

Two smooth Collies enjoy the beach on St. George Island, Florida
Two smooth Collies enjoy the beach on St. George Island, Florida

Back to the Brewery……

Back last year we visited Asheville, North Carolina and I wrote about our experience visiting the Sierra Nevada Brewery (See Here) It was great and of course on a return visit this year we felt obliged to go back and check that it was still as good. It was. The restaurant was still serving great food and accompanying it with excellent beer. The store was still selling beer related souvenirs and take-home bottles, six and twelve packs and the ubiquitous Growlers.

We also decided to check out the competing New Belgium Brewery. New Belgium has similar history to Sierra Nevada in that its origin are in the west – Colorado this time, rather than California – and that it was born out of the craft beer movement when beer lovers became disenchanted with carbonated, chemical drinks pushed at us by the big brewers. Similar movements have taken place around the world, notable being the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) n the UK, which subsequently spawned the annual Great British Beer Festival. Suffice to say though that Craft Brewing is spearheaded around the world by excellent US breweries and their beers. However back to New Belgium…..

The New Belgium Brewery is smaller than its Sierra Nevada comrade but none the worse for that. It has a different vibe, just a little more relaxed on the tourism front. The tour is of course free to tempt the faithful to identify even more closely with the brewers. Their maximum number of tour members is 20, but on our tour there were only 5 plus the tour guide, Lucy. Lucy was part of the Brew Team and was certainly knowledgable about the process, history, culture and products. There is a great sense of fun in the organization with employees being given a New Belgium bike after a years service and things like a slide to get from one level of the plant to another – see the photo! New Belgium is an employee owned company and so is unlikely to be absorbed into one of the Big (Chemical Producing!) companies. Unlike Sierra Nevada where the tasting session takes place at the end of the tour, New Belgium indulges visitors with tastings at strategically placed ‘bars’ throughout the plant. The tour ends being dropped off outside the tap room and gift shop (of course) and the Sierra Nevada full scale restaurant is replaced by a Food Truck which is really VERY good.

Which was best? Neither. They are both professional, fascinating and well worth a visit. If you’re going to the area, please try both. Not just from the beer tasting point of view, but to look at how an industrial process has been turned into a tourism opportunity.

Down here on the northern Gulf Coast we have also been absorbed by the Craft Beer movement in recent years. Both the tourists and of course the locals have been calling for something other than mass produced fizzy chemical water. Our large Military contingent along the coast has contributed to this, as they know their beer!

Without too much research you can find 13 craft breweries between Pensacola and Apalachicola. These are virtually all paired with good restaurants and all sell their own beers and the souvenirs aimed aimed at their followers. A good number have formal brewery tours, an I’m guessing that that those that don’t could happily arrange a meet up with their Brewmaster on request.

Of course this is another tourism opportunity for our Destination Marketing Organizations to jump on. The Emerald Coast Beer Trail (I’ll happy donate that title to the cause in exchange for a glass of IPA) could have tourists visiting sites right along the coast. Perhaps some sort of treasure hunt collecting stamps at the different locations, with a prize for getting all of them? Nice Marketing at it’s best and simplest, appealing to Millennials, Boomers and Foodies at the same time. The other thing to mention is this is a year round activity, and it isn’t dependent on the weather.

Just to help out here’s a list of the local Northern Gulf Coast Craft Breweries that I’ve found.

Pensacola Bay Brewery
225 E Zaragoza St
Pensacola, FL 32502-6048
(850) 434-3353

McGuire’s Irish Pub & Brewery

600 E Gregory St
Pensacola, FL 32502-4153
(850) 433-6789

Gulf Coast Brewery LLC
500 E Heinberg St
Pensacola, FL 32502-4145
(850) 696-2335

Ye Olde Brothers Brewery
4458 Highway 87
Navarre, FL 32566-9658
(850) 684-1495

Props Craft Brewery
255 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE Unit B19
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548-5833

McGuire’s Irish Pub and Brewery – Destin
33 Highway 98 E
Destin, FL 32541-2309
(850) 654-0567

Destin Brewery
505 Mountain Dr Ste N
Destin, FL 32541-7334

3rd Planet Brewing
120 Partin Dr N
Niceville, FL 32578-2053
(850) 502-9952

Grayton Beer Co
217 Serenoa Rd
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459-6099
(850) 231-4786

Idyll Hounds Brewing Company
845 Serenoa Rd
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459-5019

Nivol Brewing
483 N Richard Jackson Blvd
Panama City Beach, FL 32407-3647
(850) 249-1150

Uncle Ernies Bayfront Grill & Brew House
1151 Bayview Ave
Panama City, FL 32401-1452
(850) 763-8427

Oyster City Brewing Company
17 Avenue D
Apalachicola, FL 32320-1801

If I’ve left anyone out, please let me know!

getting employees to another level.
getting employees to another level.
A morale boosting experience?
A morale boosting experience?
The brewery is built on the site of an old circus.
The brewery is built on the site of an old circus.
After a year of service each employee gets a bike.
After a year of service each employee gets a bike.

New Belgium Brewery

Returning to the Sierra Nevada Brewery.
Returning to the Sierra Nevada Brewery.

Agri-tourism could be a big winner

When we think tourism here on the northern Gulf Coast, we automatically default to sugar white sand and emerald green water. Why wouldn’t we? We have some of the best beaches in the world. The trouble is the tourists only tend to see the part of our counties that are within two miles of the beach. The effects of tourism spread far inland, though, as many of us involved in the tourism industry live away from the beach and consequently spend income within inland communities. Incidentally, that’s another benefit of tourism that’s not often recognized.

Last year we went on a short road trip to Georgia, to an area north of Atlanta. I wrote about the trip on my blog – We took the back roads avoiding as many towns as we could. It was here that what’s termed agritourism was evident. What may not be obvious is that tourists travel for many reasons, and we’ll cover some of these in the future – cultural tourism, ecotourism, heritage, historical and medical tourism to name a few.

There is a current movement to preserve the rural way of life in Florida. Despite the impression that the Sunshine State is the theme park and beach capital of the world, agriculture is vital to Florida. Farm cash receipts from marketing Florida agricultural products in 2012 amounted to $8.22 billion.

Florida has a vibrant agritourism business ( as does Georgia (, which offer everything from pick-your-own to farm-stays. Many farms we passed in Georgia had signs offering “on farm accommodation.” There also are farm visitor centers, many boasting restaurants, souvenir stores and produce outlets – all activities that generate new income for the rural communities.

Do we promote agritourism here in Northwest Florida? Well, not really.See the rest of the article HERE.



Historic Dicky Farms in Georgia.
Historic Dicky Farms in Georgia. 



I think I need a map….

We took a road trip this past weekend. We needed to be just north east of Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday morning and to be back in Northwest Florida by mid afternoon the same day. We decided to take all day Saturday to make a leisurely drive, stay in a B&B overnight (more of this in a separate post) and then high tail it back on Sunday.

This day and age, I guess we all reach for our GPS of choice, enter the start and end points and hope for the best. Most of the modern built-in GPS (or SatNav, for my UK readers) systems will allow you to enter preferences – avoid highways, avoid tolls, don’t drive into rivers, etc. – but come up with a single route. The stand alone ones, Google Maps, Apple’s Siri, Waze etc., do offer a number of choices. We looked at the last three systems and they couldn’t agree on common routes. The apps even came up with different routes on the same app on separate devices!

I began to think that we’d be better off with a paper topographical map (again for the UK – an O.S. Map) so we could work out where we wanted to go and not be seduced by the ‘you can save 5 minutes by taking the interstate – unless there’s a wreck we haven’t noticed’ suggestions.

However we finally chose a Google route (which Apple Maps later agreed with) to take only back roads between the Panhandle and Watkinsville GA. It was glorious! Small but fast roads through beautiful farmland, small towns that don’t appear to have changed since 1940 – maybe 1840 in some cases – and virtually no traffic. Total travel time was only 40 mins longer than if we’d travelled interstate and gone through the center of Atlanta.

The downside was that there were few fast food joints on the back roads. That may be a good thing, but when you just want some fast Human fuel…. We did find a Huddle House somewhere in Back of Beyond Georgia. What a gem. Virtually empty and staffed by a group of Deep Southern Ladies who cooked everything to order, great sized portions, tasty and very inexpensive. Best of all, they were blown away by my English accent and kept on asking me to repeat the order just so they could all giggle – y’all! Thanks ladies, you did a great job in making this tourist happy.

We also saw a sign advertising Georgia Peaches for sale. Thinking this would be a roadside stall we went to investigate. We found Dickey Farms (founded 1897). Their website is at: and they’re on Facebook at

They are peach farmers and packers, and their packing plant is also a store and visitor’s center. It’s a great place. Grab some fresh peach ice cream, take one of their free fans (like Southern Ladies used to keep cool while sipping mint juleps on their front porch swings!) and watch the packing line – see the photos. You can buy peaches of course, but also cobbler, peach cider, peach sauces, jellies, candy, you name it. If it can have peaches in it, they’ve got it. The whole area around the packing plant is a mini theme park. Again, look at the photos.

All this added to my thoughts on the drive up that Agri Tourism is a growing (sorry, pun intended) and vital part of the rural economy. There is a current movement to preserve the rural way of life in Florida. Despite the impression that Florida is the theme park and beach capital of the world, agriculture is vital to Florida. Farm cash receipts from marketing Florida agricultural products in 2012 amounted to $8.22 billion, a slight decrease from 2011. Nationally, Florida ranks second in the value of vegetable and melon cash receipts with a value of $1.42 billion, 13th in crop cash receipts with a value of $6.38 billion and 10th in total cash receipts. In 2013 Florida had 48,000 commercial farms, using a total of 9.55 million acres; Florida ranked second in the U.S. for value of vegetable production; first in production value for oranges, fresh market tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit, fresh market snap beans, fresh market cucumbers and squash; second in the production of greenhouse and nursery products, bell peppers, strawberries, fresh market sweet corn, spring potatoes, tangerines and avocados; 12th in beef cows; and accounts for 63 percent of total U.S. citrus production. Florida ranks eighth in agricultural exports with over $4 billion. (Source: Florida Department of Agriculture).

Florida has a vibrant Agritourism business ( as does Georgia (, which offer everything from pick-your-own to farm-stays. Many farms we passed in Georgia had signs offering ‘on farm accommodation’. Of course, the Dickey Farms operation is a part of this agri-tourism movement.

There’s much more to tourism than that which immediately comes to mind. To the counties of Northwest Florida (for example – this applies worldwide) there is a compulsive economic reason for promoting beach tourism. There’s a duty also to promote agriculture and to protect rural life by encouraging tourism to the inland areas. This may also get those inland residents ‘on board’ with tourism issues.

Anyway, off the soapbox! By taking the back roads we added 40 minutes to our journey but added to our knowledge of the country, the enjoyment of our trip and learnt more about peaches than I thought possible. It was a great stress reducer too.

‘Siri, directions to a more enjoyable journey please’

The visitor centre and store at Dickey Farms
The visitor centre and store at Dickey Farms
The packing line from the visitor center
The packing line from the visitor center
Packing Peaches
Packing Peaches
The visitor center
The visitor center
A real historic feel
A real historic feel
Heritage Coca Cola signage
Heritage Coca Cola signage
The whole area is a heritage site
The whole area is a heritage site
An old warehouse
An old warehouse
Vintage cars
Vintage cars
Nostalgia at every turn
Nostalgia at every turn
Old cars need old gas
Old cars need old gas

Dickey Farms

Exploit the ancestors!

Many years ago, I was involved in tourism from the United Kingdom to Australia and New Zealand. The main demographic was UK folks who had family and friends ‘down under’, due to migration (not to mention enforced transportation of convicts in days gone by!) virtually everyone had a relative in Oz. Not surprisingly this sector was called VFR – Visit Friends and Relations. Rapidly this changed as potential travelers wanted an exotic vacation, but needed to justify the expense. Enter EFR – Exploit Friends and Relations! The premise being that an afternoon visit to Aunt Gladys in Perth would justify a four-week tour around the Barrier Reef and Uluru.

These days there are many reasons people travel, and one the biggest niche markets is heritage tourism. This takes a few forms from ‘cultural heritage tourism’ to ‘diaspora tourism’, both of which have links to my old friend EFR.

An example of this is that in the past 500 years, the vast majority of the population of the USA came from somewhere else. No matter that the descendants of those immigrants feel wholly American, there is a need for many to find out where their roots came from and this drives them to use the investigation of cultural links to justify travel. It’s a good reason.

Not only is this driving huge numbers of visits to Asia, Africa and Europe by the descendants of the original immigrants, but it’s prompting domestic tourism too. Investigations of where the family originally entered the US, where they travelled, where they fought and where other relatives spread.

The proliferation of the genealogy series on television – ‘Who do you think you are?’, plus the on-line family tree services ( etc.) are fueling the interest.

So, it’s a good opportunity for Destination Marketing Organizations to bring tourists into their areas – particularly in out of high season periods – to search for their history. Get a genealogist on call, plus the local historians. There’s always a local history buff who wants to share their knowledge.

Tourism is becoming more specialized by the moment and it gives huge opportunities for DMOs, tour companies and hospitality organizations to expand their offerings and get some of those folks looking for something new.