Delray Beach debating whether to push for more tourism


DELRAY Beach — Following a sluggish two many years, tourists are generating their way back again to Delray Beach front, flocking to the city’s vibrant downtown on Atlantic Avenue at a tempo which is established to exceed pre-pandemic ranges.

But as tourism figures start off to rise, town officials are inquiring: How several visitors do we essentially want in Delray?

That’s the difficulty commissioners are grappling with as they craft the city’s extensive-expression eyesight for tourism, including no matter whether they need to include far more infrastructure, these as motels, to accommodate a possible enhance in desire.

“I never know how we can cram that a great deal a lot more in with what’s happening in this article,” Delray Beach front Mayor Shelly Petrolia mentioned during a community conference on Tuesday. “If you’re down right here in the course of year on a Saturday night, it is insane.

“There’s actually been a prolonged period of time of time exactly where [residents] felt like visitors in their individual town, and some have stopped coming [downtown].”

Tourism has been a major financial driver for the town, building $876,000 each day in direct financial price, a consultant explained to town commissioners at the meeting. Don Kolodz, president of Tourism Strategic Alternatives, stated Delray Beach’s tourism numbers are at 96% of where by the metropolis was in 2019 and that it must exceed that determine by year’s close.

As the metropolis starts to “grow our tourism pie in terms of visitation, we require to most likely search at where do we have to have extra potential in conditions of resort rooms,” Kolodz extra. “Is it out west? Is it downtown? Where by is there land out there?”

The subject of lodges will possible come up later this yr as the metropolis prepares to open up bidding for a 6-acre parcel of land on the Delray Beach Golf Club. The practically 100-calendar year-old golfing class wants about $10 million to $15 million to take care of a assortment of troubles, this kind of as replacing the drainpipes underneath the system and creating upgrades to the restrooms, routine maintenance facility and parking plenty.

Due to the fact of that steep price tag tag, Delray Seashore is looking for a developer to finance the repairs. In exchange, the city is prepared to give up 6 acres of the program bordering Atlantic Avenue for a potential mixed-use development.

Adding accommodations, however, does not appear to be a primary precedence for the metropolis. Delray Beach has seen an influx of new hotels in the downtown space with The Ray Lodge opening in 2021 and a Hampton Inn by Hilton slated for 2023.

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Town Commissioner Ryan Boylston mentioned he’s not pushing for extra lodges, noting the current additions and the rise in house-sharing choices, this kind of as Airbnb.

“Those can erode neighborhoods and communities simply because then you don’t have individuals operating here whole time,” Boylston explained. “We do not want to are living in a tourist city. We want to are living in a wonderful metropolis with a vibrant downtown that people want to visit, but it is a fantastic line.

“Daytona, Panama Town, even the beachside of Fort Lauderdale — they’ve observed how tough it is to wind that back. You get the large ups and the big downs of remaining a tourist-primarily based metropolis.”

Alternatively of pushing for much more travelers, Petrolia said, the major target must be re-engaging with inhabitants and “making them experience like they’re seriously invited.”

She extra: “We presently are a tourist location. We by now are carrying out [tourism numbers that] a whole lot of destinations would like they could get to. How many website visitors do we actually want to carry in outside of what we’re previously obtaining, primarily for the duration of the height of our season?”

City Commissioner Juli Casale shared a related sentiment, suggesting the metropolis could possibly companion with community hotels to give deals with features like spas geared towards persons hunting for staycations.

“When the motels have much less capability in the off-period, the superior solution for us vs. seeking to cultivate a ton of new [tourists] is to try and fill in the gaps when our existing businesses are sluggish,” Casale said.


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