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RNC Guests at Hotels, But Don't Stick Around to Shop

Many visiting the area for the RNC packed Clearwater beach hotels, but they are spending their money elsewhere, not in local eateries or watering holes.

Businesses along Clearwater Beach braced themselves this week not just for Tropical Storm Isaac, but for the mass of Republicans arriving for the RNC.

Isaac passed by and so, too, did the RNC visitors, though the Republicans are staying here.

What local business officials had hoped would be a packed beach was sparsely populated on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. It has been that way all week, said Liz Lajoy of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Influx of business "has not been as much as we expected," Lajoy said.

On the morning of the last day of the convention, Lajoy isn't sure business will pick up. Officials are crossing their fingers that some of the hundreds who did stay at Clearwater-area hotels stick around for the long Labor Day weekend.

"That would be great but I don't know that they are," Lajoy said. "It would be nice" if the delegates stayed.

It seems the lack of foot traffic and less than expected influx of dollars were due to a combination of things, said Joyce Ostrander, manager of Crabby Bill's on Clearwater Beach.

"I think the issue is not having a [national party] convention here before, we prepared for a very large bump," Ostrander said. "We added staff and everything and [the increase in business] hasn't happened.

"The hotels are filled, but the people are gone. The buses come and take them away. Our sales are actually way down."

Many of those coming to the convention are whisked away each day for pre-planned group luncheons, dinners and functions or for the business at hand in Tampa.

Ostrander also said part of the lack of business from the RNC is due to the long tentacles of Tropical Storm Isaac, which this time last week seemed poised to hit the area. So much so, the RNC postponed Monday's events.

"I had heard [RNC visitors] had planned on bringing their families but because of Isaac, the families opted not to come."

So the families who would have stayed on the beach all week never showed up.

"We are glad they came, but the beach is dead," Ostrander said.

Businesses are hoping the long holiday weekend, combined with the start of football, will result in a boost in income, but that is not likely to come from RNC visitors.

"From the few I have talked to, they are leaving town" once the RNC is over, Ostrander said.

Misty Wells, the director of sales for Shephard's Beach Resort, had a slightly different take on the paltry foot traffic. She thought that locals and regulars, also expecting crowds from the RNC, stayed away.

Oh, and Isaac didn't help matters either.

"We have the South Dakota delegation staying with us and they have had functions with us," Wells said. "The South Dakota delegation has been wonderful and the other delegates I have met have been amazing."

Wells said the South Dakota delegation and its functions at the resort have "offset" whatever the resort lost in limited foot traffic and those who canceled due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

Though the RNC ends this evening, the RNC won't end at Shephard's quite as fast. The resort is hosting an RNC-themed party with drink discounts and no cover charge.

Cathy Salustri August 31, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I wonder whether these chambers talked to the cities that hosted the conventions four years ago or just assumed it would be a boon for local businesses. I can see where it's a natural assumption but a very costly one for many local businesses, especially along the beaches, where everything dies almost completely after Labor Day.
Michael D. August 31, 2012 at 01:39 PM
It's not the RNC's fault there wasn't the expected bump in revenue. There was a bump, but also this is a laying the ground work event. We are hoping that people see this area, and come back. And the effects of Issac did have an effect on family and travel plans. There are a lot things you can blame on the Major Parties. But the total effect economically of the RNC haven't been felt. This is really something that could have a 5 year effect. Get people to see the area, and then come back on non-business travel.
InsiderMyself August 31, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Well we knew this, and I blogged it as a former delegate in Boston. I did not shop either, nor drink, or party. Lots of meetings, and did not get back to room til late at night. We had to be in 7:30 bkfst or lose our credentials. The protesters patronized the TAmpa businesses more. What did the unneccessary army tank cost? What a waste of taxpayer dollars...because of propaganda against protesters. Republicans waste more money than anyone that I know. Now comes Iran...as they all leave town. Don't let the doors hit you in the arse are your way out of town!
InsiderMyself August 31, 2012 at 03:44 PM
And I would not say it was the storm. That freed them up to go shopping and do other things. They went to see the Obama movie. And they shopped at International Mall. They did forget to get behind the outdoor set ups of the press and wave romney signs. Looked like Obama convention from the news setups. Republicans never work hard at elections...they buy them. Then they forget these details.
Dani August 31, 2012 at 10:36 PM
This reminds me of a City Meeting that I attended awhile back re: Downtown Development along Cleveland St... And the discussion was focused on parking availability for the new Casanova Restaurant & Lounge.. The City was so eager to please its new tenant, that they allowed them Valet Parking access directly on a right-of-way traffic lane along Cleveland Street?! Meanwhile, people who used this Valet service came, ate, & left! Why not force the people to park their own vehicles... Make them park & walk?! By encouraging more foot traffic in downtown Clearwater as people make their way to & from their cars... They may even stop & shop at other local businesses! But, nope... That would make too much sense, right?!

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