Visit Pensacola presented its Destination 2020 Strategic Plan to a packed house at the renovated Rex Theater on Thursday May 7th. The impact of tourism as a very strong and vital part of Pensacola and Escambia County’s growth was documented in the very professionally designed report that depicted $700 million in total direct visitor spending in 2014 and the creation of 20,000 jobs. In fact the report bears out that 2014’s growth was 11% over 2013 and “a whopping 66.3% over 2010”! These numbers reflect the turnaround since the 2010 BP oil spill.
Escambia County’s growth has surpassed neighboring counties with double digit growth percentages to their single digit growth. When the growth of the Leisure and Hospitality industry is compared to other sectors of our local economy like Business Services, and Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate it leads to the creation of jobs and revenue. Tourist spending has a direct impact on area sales levels, employment numbers, labor income, and tax revenues. For example, VisitFlorida.org reports that for every 85 tourists one job is created in Florida. Northwest Florida (from Escambia County to Franklin County) typically receives nearly 15% of all Florida visitors. With 94.7 million visitors statewide in 2013, this translates into over 14 million visitors to the region annually, and growing.
Pensacola’s growth in the past five years since the oil spill can be seen in the recent boom in downtown development, job creation and tourism. The additional impact of the Blue Wahoos baseball team, the Maritime Park stadium, along with Quint Studer’s investments and Palafox and Main Streets, and the Belmont and DeVilliers historical African-American business district has generated a sense of an expanding economic explosion for the larger community.
At press time, Pensacola Voice staff could not reach Visit Pensacola officials for the impact of all of this growth on the African-American and minority demographic, however, there does appear to be a sincere open door for a level economic opportunity playing field if the Destination 2020 Strategic Plan’s mission and SWOT Analysis verbiage can be trusted. For example the Visit Pensacola Mission states, “Lead. Connect. Collaborate. Communicate. Visit Pensacola supports the community vision by serving as the central body responsible for building tourism as an economic engine for our community”.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In the Opportunities section it states, “Build collaboration across groups to maximize funding to produce biggest impact”. In the Strengths section the Leadership sub-category states, “Emerging leadership is investing in the future-respecting our history while moving past the way we have always done it mentality”. With the RESTORE Act strategic planning process focused on tourism as a focus of community financing, these collaborative building statements could expand the impact of Pensacola’s and Escambia County’s growth into low-income and minority job creation and community revitalization!