Record-setting year for Pinellas County tourism

Hurricane Sandy could impact tourism in Pinellas

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - "Did it exceed the expectations? Absolutely," said Tony Satterfield.

Satterfield manages Alden Suites on St. Pete Beach.  He says Pinellas is now getting its just due as a top destination spot; collecting more than $28-million in tourist tax for the year.

"We saw business increase a little bit in 2011.  We saw it really come back very strongly in 2012," Satterfield remarked.

Dore Herman has owned Larry's Ice Cream on St. Pete Beach for more than 25 years.

"We've had a very good year," said Herman.

She rolls her handmade waffle cones to pass the time; trying not to think about the impact that Hurricane Sandy could have on Pinellas tourism.

"I know it's going to impact down here.  Maybe people don't feel it yet, but people are devastated.  How can they decide to go on a vacation," said Herman.

The couple walking down Gulf Blvd. is from Toms River, New Jersey.  Many of their friends back home are still without power.

"We were some of the fortunate ones.  But we had booked in advance and we just kind of took the trip.  Kind of feel a little bit guilty," explained Mike Colombo.

Tourism officials say there is optimism that those from the northeast will continue to seek out Pinellas County.

"According to the research that Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has done, there does not appear to be any short-term impact.  More importantly, there does not appear to be any long term impact.  It looks like the New Yorkers will continue to come down," Satterfield explained.

That's exactly what Todd and Randi Kassay from Long Island decided to do.  After delaying their trip because of Sandy, they're now relaxing poolside.

"Everybody's okay.  We have a lot of friends that lost a lot.  So, like I said, we feel blessed.  But, it was time.  We needed to get away," remarked Randi Kassay.

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