Delray Beach debating whether to push for more tourism

Otto I. Eovaldi

DELRAY Seashore — Soon after a sluggish two several years, holidaymakers are producing their way back again to Delray Seashore, flocking to the city’s vibrant downtown on Atlantic Avenue at a speed that’s established to exceed pre-pandemic ranges.

But as tourism figures begin to increase, metropolis officials are asking: How lots of visitors do we in fact want in Delray?

Which is the concern commissioners are grappling with as they craft the city’s long-phrase vision for tourism, which includes no matter if they need to insert a lot more infrastructure, these as motels, to accommodate a possible enhance in demand from customers.

“I really do not know how we can cram that significantly extra in with what is going on below,” Delray Seashore Mayor Shelly Petrolia explained throughout a public conference on Tuesday. “If you are down in this article throughout period on a Saturday evening, it is insane.

“There’s truly been a very long interval of time where by [residents] felt like guests in their individual town, and some have stopped coming [downtown].”

Tourism has been a significant economic driver for the town, building $876,000 each day in direct economic price, a guide advised city commissioners at the conference. Don Kolodz, president of Tourism Strategic Solutions, reported Delray Beach’s tourism numbers are at 96% of in which the metropolis was in 2019 and that it need to exceed that figure by year’s stop.

As the metropolis commences to “grow our tourism pie in conditions of visitation, we have to have to almost certainly glance at the place do we require extra ability in terms of lodge rooms,” Kolodz added. “Is it out west? Is it downtown? Where is there land readily available?”

The subject of accommodations will very likely occur up afterwards this year as the city prepares to open up bidding for a 6-acre parcel of land on the Delray Beach front Golf Club. The approximately 100-yr-previous golfing program demands about $10 million to $15 million to correct a variety of concerns, this sort of as changing the drainpipes beneath the course and producing updates to the restrooms, servicing facility and parking a lot.

For the reason that of that steep value tag, Delray Beach is wanting for a developer to finance the repairs. In exchange, the town is ready to give up 6 acres of the training course bordering Atlantic Avenue for a future blended-use development.

Introducing inns, having said that, does not look to be a principal precedence for the town. Delray Seashore has noticed an inflow of new hotels in the downtown location with The Ray Lodge opening in 2021 and a Hampton Inn by Hilton slated for 2023.

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City Commissioner Ryan Boylston reported he’s not pushing for far more resorts, noting the recent additions and the increase in residence-sharing choices, this kind of as Airbnb.

“Those can erode neighborhoods and communities since then you don’t have men and women performing below entire time,” Boylston claimed. “We don’t want to are living in a tourist city. We want to live in a superb metropolis with a lively downtown that individuals want to check out, but it’s a wonderful line.

“Daytona, Panama City, even the beachside of Fort Lauderdale — they’ve noticed how hard it is to wind that again. You get the huge ups and the major downs of staying a tourist-based metropolis.”

Alternatively of pushing for far more holidaymakers, Petrolia claimed, the major concentration ought to be re-partaking with residents and “making them feel like they are truly invited.”

She additional: “We already are a vacationer place. We now are executing [tourism numbers that] a ton of spots want they could get to. How many visitors do we definitely want to bring in beyond what we’re presently owning, primarily during the peak of our time?”

Town Commissioner Juli Casale shared a comparable sentiment, suggesting the city could probably companion with local resorts to offer you deals with amenities like spas geared towards persons searching for staycations.

“When the lodges have much less ability in the off-year, the far better strategy for us vs. seeking to cultivate a ton of new [tourists] is to check out and fill in the gaps when our latest businesses are slow,” Casale stated.

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