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Amelia Island Businesses Welcome Tourism Boom

Amelia Island broke tourism records in July. Hotels and resorts are reporting a 4-percent increase in vacationers over last year.

The tourism hot spot an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville is contributing to another record-setting year for Florida.

Just between April and June, more than 160,000 visitors stayed in Amelia Island.

Two of those visitors are Michelle and Sophi. The Parisian couple didn’t want to give their last names; they’re just tourists, they say. But they did divulge that this is their second time in two years staying in Amelia Island.

“And because we really appreciated it two years ago, we decided just to spend one day and one night in Fernandina Beach,” Michelle said.

Michelle and Sophi are on their way back from the Amelia Riverfront, where the the Salty Pelican bar and grill is bustling with lunchtime activity.

“Pelican” Pete Thomas is a Florida transplant from Cape Cod who’s been  bartender at the river hotspot for as long as it’s been open — three years. He said business heats up every summer after the winter slump.

“The locals start coming back out because they know that we’re on an hour wait  during the summer with everybody that’s visiting. So it changes, but we always stay full,” Thomas said.

The Amelia Island Tourist Development Council says tourism revenue is up nearly 10 percent over last year. That’s $68 million in just the last seven months.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.