The Sirata Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach has 382 rooms, and has committed 300 of them to the Republican National Convention in August.
Sirata president Gregg Nicklaus now knows he is hosting the New Jersey delegation and the resort may have a sellout coming.
But early expectations of delegates staying through the holiday weekend?
"Too early to say, and I don't expect it," Nicklaus said. "It takes a good strategist to get five days off and get your family on the beach after a convention and live through it," he explained.
Organizers predict the RNC will have a $200 million impact on the Tampa Bay area, reflecting direct spending on hotel rooms, meals and transportation. But much of that will be spent on hotel properties, such as the Trade Winds Beach Resorts. "I plan on having food for them at midnight when the buses come back" said general manager Keith Overton, pointing out local restaurants will be closed at that hour.
The president of St. Petersburg's Downtown Business Association has an office on busy Beach Drive. She said "I think that the businesses are just planning on sort of business as usual, those that aren't involved directly with an RNC activity."
The owner of Bellabrava restaurant agreed: "We definitely know that all the hotels are booked solid, which is a great thing for downtown St. Pete" Mike Harting said, "But the need to provide meals to the folks that are staying in those [are] limited because they'll all be in Tampa from 11 in the morning until the buses come back at ten or eleven o'clock at night."
Across Pinellas, businesses are coming to grips with what windfall might come from the RNC, and what will not. In 2008 three academic economists in Massachusetts published a study entitled "Rejecting Conventional Wisdom: Estimating the Economic Impact of National Political Conventions".
For decades, economists have contradicted the proclaimed benefits of mega-events such as hosting Olympic Games or a Superbowl. The Massachusetts scholars translated those findings into a formula and then examined 18 national political conventions from 1972 through 2004. The bottom line: "The promoters' rosy economic projections are overstated, and these events have negligible impact on local economies." The
authors found "...no discernable impact on employment, personal income or personal income per capita in the cities where the events were held."
At the Sirata, Nicklaus chuckled at the paper's suggestion that people apply the same skepticism to economic promises as they do candidate campaign promises.
"There were times in the past when we got a Super Bowl announcement or a major convention that's coming to the area that we would have expectations that were unrealized," Nicklaus admitted. "We've learned because of those previous experiences not to have high hopes. This one I believe has the makings of being- of exceeding our expectations because maybe they're a little bit lower."
There is a reason for his optimism: The 2012 RNC is the week before Labor Day, which is usually one of the slowest weeks of the year on Pinellas beaches.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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