St. Johns County State of the Tourism Industry event focuses on resiliency


When the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches Visitors & Convention Bureau held its annual State of the Tourism Industry Summit on Thursday, May 17, the event focused on resiliency — illustrating the record-breaking year in the area’s tourism industry despite the challenges of two hurricanes.

More than 350 people attended the free breakfast event open to the public at the World Golf Village Renaissance Resort. Richard Goldman, president and CEO of the Visitors and Convention Bureau, presented 2017's record breaking year of tourism in St. Johns County, which had a $2.4 billion economic impact, generated $8.5 million sales tax revenue and provided 29,000 jobs with $730.7 million in compensation.

Fiscal Year 2017 was the seventh consecutive year of positive tourism growth, according to the Visitors and Convention Bureau. Across all measures, the lodging industry had another record-breaking year, with average occupancy up 1.2 percent, average daily rate (ADR) up 3.4 percent, revenue per available room (RevPar) up 4.6 percent and demand growth up 4.5 percent.

The keynote speaker of the event was Richard Gonzmart, the fourth generation "caretaker" of the Columbia Restaurant Group, which owns Columbia Restaurant. Columbia Restaurant opened on St. George Street in 1983, bringing an authentic flavor along with an economic boom to Florida's Historic Coast. Gonzmart talked about overcoming challenges to achieve your dreams. He was also presented with an award recognizing his industry leadership and philanthropy supporting hundreds of organizations serving youth and cancer research. 

Erin Francis-Cummings, president/CEO of Destination Analysts, also shared research at the event on the state of the tourism industry with insights on where and how individuals look for information when making travel decisions, what influences and inspires those decisions and predictors of what lies ahead for tourism in both the state and country.

In addition, Lightner Museum received the first ever Tourism Impact Award for its “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times” exhibit. The award is given to individuals or organizations within the tourism community that have made a significant and immediate economic impact on the growth of the tourism industry and the destination as a whole. According to the Visitors and Convention Bureau, Lightner Museum was successful in garnering international publicity that increased awareness of Florida's Historic Coast. And the economy benefited in a big way with record visitation when the exhibit was on display between October and February.

For more information visit the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at