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Chamber culls economic impact data from bizs

August 6, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce has started collecting data on the impact water quality is having on local business via an online monthly survey.

Last week, the chamber initiated the survey as a way to track how the ongoing red tide bloom is affecting businesses on the islands in terms of revenue, visitors, jobs and more. President John Lai explained that the compiled data will be delivered to local elected officials and advocacy leaders.

"We'd like to track within our businesses what impact this is having on them," he said. "We'd like to be able to quantify that and pass if off to groups that can advocate, like our elected officials."

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John Lai

The aim is to have the information available for use, whether the results are positive or negative.

"We know that every time an event like this happens, there's an economic impact," Lai said.

The survey contains a total of 36 questions, but the questions are broken down by industry. For example, there 12 questions for hotels and six for restaurant or food and beverage businesses.

"It's broken down by industry, so we can track by industry," he said.

Businesses are being asked to fill out the survey on a monthly basis, with the first one focused on the months of June and July. Individual information submitted by businesses will remain confidential.

"Until the event is no longer an impact or until the red tide bloom goes away," Lai said.

In terms of data collected, the survey will track room night and gross revenue changes for hotels and accommodations, along with early departures, year-over-year revenue comparisons and more. The data covers areas like leads and closings for real estate, and retail goes over revenue and visitor numbers.

"We know a lot of our retailers count the number of visitors who walk through their doors," he said.

There is even an "other" section for unlisted industries, such as non-profits and contractors.

The survey also includes a spreadsheet to make the monthly submissions easier.

"We've given them a tool, an Excel spreadsheet, to track their data more easily," Lai said.

Those without exact data for June and July are asked to estimate the information.

Participation in the survey is open to all businesses on the islands.

"We want to make sure that every business owner knows we're going to continue doing this type of work for the community, regardless of whether or not their business is a chamber member," he said. "If they're not a member, please fill it out anyway because we know they are part of the community."

"We want to make sure their information is recorded and their data is collected," Lai added.

The idea for the survey came about as a result of feedback from its members.

"Our membership has voiced that it is having negative impacts," he said of the current water quality.

Tour guides, fishing captains and resorts have spoke up.

"Members whose businesses are water-based. Those are the ones most vocal right now," he said.

Lai explained that visitors are canceling reserved trips and those already on-island are leaving early. Charters and cruises are being canceled because people know what they are going to encounter.

As of Aug. 3, the chamber had received more than 450 completed surveys.

"What we're seeing on the beaches is not consistent with what we've grown used to in terms of quality," Lai added. "Wildlife and ecotourism is in jeopardy."

While Sanibel and Captiva are its main focus, the chamber has contacted other entities.

"We've also reached out to our chamber partners from Sarasota down to Marco Island in the hopes that they will do the same," he said of the other groups compiling data specific to their own communities.

Lai explained that there are four main functions of a chamber of commerce networking, business development, destination marketing and business advocacy, with marketing typically the top priority.

"This is one of those times where we've actually made a conscious decision to ramp up our advocacy efforts and ramp down our marketing efforts," he said.

To fill out the survey online, visit

For more information or to be added to the chamber's email list, call 239-472-1080.



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