July 2020

It would be wonderful if I could give you the latest updates on local and world tourism but things move so quickly these days that there may well have been changes by the time I get to the end of the article!  Luckily I can share some good news about our local area.

The Northern Gulf Coast opened up to tourism a short while back and our faithful tourists lost no time in returning to our sugar white beaches.  That’s great news for the vacation rental, hotel and restaurant industry and for our local economy as a whole.  The folks renting pontoon boats, personal water craft and the fishing charterers have also benefited.  In fact arrivals in part of the area during May were higher than June 2019. This may in part be down to the pent up demand by people not being able to travel for a while. It could however be a continuation of what was seen last year. Then there was a move from traveling during June, July and August to visitors spreading their trips to the spring and fall. Perhaps and hopefully, this is a trend that will continue.  Certainly the hospitality industry is reporting very high booking levels for later in the summer.  The main benefit from this is spreading the visitors over a longer period allows for more year round employment.

There are also changes to how people are spending their vacation time here.  Yes, we have all seen images of crowded beaches, but reports from the authorities are that people are social distancing on beaches and in restaurants.  Our tourists are also engaging in activities that stress adventure and discovery, while keeping in their family groups. Again, diversification of tourist activity is a great boost.

Looking at things from a slightly different perspective, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to travel worldwide in the near future, which makes all of us habitual travelers sad.  One of the joys of traveling around the world is being able to experience local culture through food.  However I was thinking how to get my ‘international food fix’ in the current situation.  A small bit of research in my home town here on the Panhandle revealed a whole range of world wide cuisine available.

For example here in Fort Walton Beach and Destin we have a plethora of seafood restaurants serving locally sourced foods.  Their styles are varied from ‘you catch it – we’ll cook it’ to gourmet seafood.  Of course we have a great range of Mexican restaurants, each with their different styles. Italian, French, German, Thai, Japanese, Jamaican, Caribbean, Turkish, Mediterranean, Puerto Rican, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Southwestern, Barbecue, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian and Honduran all jumped out from a quick search on Trip Advisor. There’s even a British food truck that travels around the area.  That’s just Fort Walton Beach!  Extend the search a bit further and you’ll come up with many more styles and cultures.  Virtually all these restaurants offer take out service as well as eat-in.  It does make you think that you can eat around the world without getting on a plane!

So, despite these ‘unusual’ times in which we live, it’s not all bad news.