Island merchant says chamber a key to success
Sanibel and Captiva are reporting healthy signs of a rebounding economy. A business survey conducted by the island chamber of commerce revealed a strong sense that this last summer was the best in years. Causeway vehicle numbers are approaching record counts, expectations are high and promising for the season ahead.
Sanibel and Captiva aren’t alone in the bright picture. Lee County tourism taxes are jumping by double digits, and flights at regional airports are up nearly 10 percent just over last year.
The Reporter asked San-Cap Islands Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Fran Peters to share thoughts on Sanibel and Captiva, the role the chamber plays in outreach to tourists and business opportunities, the vacation rental enterprise she founded in 1997.
Fran Peters: “Weather plays an important part in the vacation rental business. With each summer comes the threat of storms and we’ve been lucky to dodge them for many years. Word of mouth is huge and people like to talk about their vacations on the Internet. As we continue to have beautiful weather, guests tell their friends and family, and tourism grows.”
Fran Peters: “The Catch 22 of the Internet is it can be your best friend and it can be your worst enemy. With sites encouraging visitors to leave their comments, we of course, want to hear all the good. A negative review on a site can be very damaging and there are few controls. We strive for complete guest satisfaction and love when our visitors speak highly of Sanibel, the Chamber and Island Vacations.”
Fran Peters: “The Chamber helps ‘web surfers’ find Sanibel and specifically Island Vacations. They offer co-op advertising so the cost is not prohibitive. The Chamber encourages all businesses to be a member and become involved. We have monthly luncheons with interesting speakers, a monthly ‘after-hours’ for socializing and fun, and ribbon-cuttings for all new businesses…I believe the Chamber is a great asset.”
Fran Peters: “For the past few years, our summers are almost filled – the only difference with ‘season’ is summer guests get to pay about half what the winter guest pays. I’ve always said May and November are the most beautiful months, rates are still lower than winter months and the weather is spectacular! I hear over and over we have just as many arrivals on a Saturday in July as in season – to them, there is no difference. If we were a retail business, it’s like we have a sign in the window saying 50 percent off! And, again, word gets out and it’s like tumbleweedseason is growing and business is good. We have more on the books now for 2015 and are happy to welcome repeat guests back to our islands.”
Fran Peters: “Fifty years from now? Whewseason could be 12 months a year!”