Tourism is Florida’s biggest industry. In 2012, it accounted for around $70 billion in state revenues.
It’s also a big part of the U.S. economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism is the country’s third-largest business, behind only real estate and manufacturing. It was responsible for nearly 9 percent of our gross domestic product in 2011, about $1.3 trillion.
None of this comes as any great surprise. What may surprise some is that beaches are far and away the biggest part of tourism. James Houston of the Army Corps of Engineers recently reported:
Beaches outstrip mountains, deserts, all national parks and all theme parks for tourist visits.
Fifty-two percent of respondents to a recent survey said they planned a holiday at some beach in the next 12 months.
Taxes from beach visitors topped $25 billion last year.
That’s the good news. The bad news is our beaches are disappearing. Beach erosion has been a persistent problem in the U.S., and thousands of miles of shoreline are lost each year.
It’s happening in Collier County. Beaches are one of our most important assets, and we haven’t taken very good care of them. Our beaches erode, we replace the sand, and they erode again — an endless cycle.
What have we done lately? Paid $9.5 million to truck in quarry sand. The project, widely opposed, is typical of our fix-it-when-we-have-to mentality — a Band-Aid approach.
Long-range planning? There hasn’t been much.
A number of civic and business groups think there should be. And, as a first step, the groups have banded together to sponsor a public forum on beach maintenance.
The Collier Citizens Council, League of Women Voters, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Collier County Presidents Council and Greater Naples Leadership are bringing in experts to discuss what can be done, the options for containing erosion and replacing lost sand.
Speakers will include:
Jim Beever, Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, on the scope of the problem
Chad Washburn, Naples Botanical Garden, on shoreline planting
Ken Christensen, EcoShore, on passive dewatering
Ken Humiston, Humiston & Moore, on hardening
Gary McAlpin, director, Collier County Coastal Zone Management Department, on renourishment
Patrick Neale, attorney, on funding
Tom Pierro, Coastal Planning & Engineering Inc., on permitting
Ray Judah, Florida Coastal & Ocean Coalition, for the wrapup
Jeff Lytle of the Naples Daily News will serve as moderator.
The forum will be held at the North Naples United Methodist Church, 6000 Goodlette-Frank Road North, on Jan. 9, from 3 to 5 p.m.
Mark the date on your calendar and plan to join us.
Everyone has a stake in our beaches.