Businesses looking forward to summer tourism season

Tourists peruse souvenirs at a shop on St. George Street.

By Stephen Cripps |

Every year, hundreds of small Floridian communities will suddenly feel a bit more crowded as millions of travelers descend upon their tropical towns. 

Even with snowbirds returning to their more temperate climates at the end of spring break, St. Augustine, Florida, looks forward to a profitable summer of tourism. 

Some St. George Street business owners are eager for the oncoming storm of visitors, as more tourists means more profits. 

Greg Abernathy at The Shell Shop is optimistic about the coming months. 

“Tourism increases in the summer, and business does too,” Abernathy said. “Our business is best in July.”

St. Augustine’s claim as the oldest European settlement in the United States helps draw more to Abernathy’s souvenir and shell store. 

“We have a lot of visitors from other countries coming in to St. Augustine,” said Abernathy. “It’s pretty much an international destination so we have people from all over the world.” 

With such an influx of guests, many locals are adapting to feel more comfortable in their hometown. Sarah Langston, a local resident and Flagler student, finds tourism to be a nuisance. 

“I live close enough to the hub of tourism,” said Langston. “Late at night, there’s always kids and tourists wandering through my street and being loud, keeping me up in a typically pretty quiet part of town.” 

Her home isn’t the only part of St. Augustine where Langston feels uneasy. 

“When tourists walk through and stop me while I’m going to class or trying to go to the art building after hours, that gets in the way and kind of holds me up,” said Langston. “It’s never enough to irritate me, but it’s enough to irritate me over the course of four years.” 

Langston has taken measures to protect herself from harm as she walks home from campus each night. 

“I always carry mace, pepper spray, and a sound grenade,” said Langston. 

However, like many locals, Langston believes the tourism industry is ultimately good for St. Augustine. 

“That’s how St. Augustine makes most of its money. I know that for the city to improve we have to keep allowing tourists in, it just sucks that that’s what it comes to,” said Langston. 

Community Affairs Officer Dee Brown at the St. Augustine Police Department is much more optimistic, especially when it comes to public safety during the summer. 

“It’s what we do. The only thing that changes is we deal with a lot more people and traffic,” said Brown. “There’s no increase in calls or anything.” 

The SAPD has already taken measures to ensure both locals and tourists are safe and can be at ease. 

“We have enough officers in place, we patrol our areas, we are vigilant in everything we do. There’s no difference. This is what we train for yearly,” said Brown. 

As for the tourism industry, Brown insisted there was no need to worry about rising crime, but rather tourists not understanding St. Augustine’s confusing map of one-way streets. 

“We get people driving the wrong way, because they’re tourists,” said Brown. “Clearly the sign doesn’t change throughout the country, no matter where you drive, a one-way sign is the same everywhere in the United States. That’s mostly what we deal with.” 

However, Brown acknowledged the increased risks with higher traffic and larger populations. 

“When we do realize there’s a high volume of visitors here, we kind of make sure we’re visible enough in the high-traffic areas, or the areas where a lot of tourists are walking and crossing the streets so we don’t have any traffic fatalities,” said Brown. 

St. Augustine is a tourist town. Just as Floridians prepare for hurricanes, they can prepare for tourists. 

“We deal with about six or seven million tourists a year,” Brown said. “We do the same thing year-round. If we can get through Christmas, summer is nothing.” 

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