Those on the Gulf Coast are closely watching a tropical depression in the Caribbean that could turn into a major hurricane.
It could be the first storm to hit the U.S. after what’s been a slow start to the season, one that’s been great for businesses on the coast.
Beach towns, like Pensacola, Florida are having record-breaking seasons.
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“We’ve been doing really well, and we’re still exceeding 2021 which was a record season for us,” said Max Murphy, the General Manager of Crabs on the Beach, one of the more popular restaurants on Pensacola Beach.
The Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce says hotels stayed booked through the summer, and even as their normal busy season dies down, more guests are still checking in.
“This is supposed to be the start of the slow time,” said Pensacola Beach Chamber President Meg Peltier. “We had a hotel say they had 90 reservations check out on Sunday and 70 coming in on Monday this week.”
Scott Ford, the spokesperson for Innisfree Hotels, a company that manages several hotels on Pensacola Beach, confirmed in a statement that this slow start to hurricane season is having a positive impact on their hotel business.
“We’re hopeful that the weather holds out and we have another beautiful fall season,” Ford wrote.
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To arrive on Pensacola Beach, every car must drive through a toll booth. The toll booth numbers show over 1.7 million cars have visited Pensacola Beach from June to September this year. That’s over 62,000 more vehicles than in 2021, and an even larger jump than in 2020 when about 1.5 million cars went through the toll.
“A lot of our visitors are coming from Atlanta, the Carolinas, Kentucky,” Peltier said. “It’s been record numbers all summer.”
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Tourism in Fort Walton Beach, Florida is also booming.
Michael Taylor, the Senior Director of Operations for Vacasa vacation rentals in the Fort Walton area says, “Visitors have been able to fully enjoy the beautiful coastline and avoid last-minute changes to their vacations as a result of storm warnings, but we’re still very much in the midst of peak season and are ready to execute our emergency playbook, securing our vacation homes and notifying guests, if the need arises.”
When you live and work in hurricane alley, you’re always prepared, no matter how quiet the season has been so far.
“It’s highly predictable that if there’s a storm that comes in the gulf, it comes somewhere near us,” Murphy said. “We really depend on the weekends [for business] and if the storm is the later part of the week going into the weekend, it will really put us down for that week.”
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