By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Now that colleges and universities across the country have started releasing students for their mid-semester breaks, Spring Break has officially begun. Months of preparation done by various entities of City of South Padre Island will now be put to the test. Soon the typical sounds of the calming surf and the call of seagulls will drowned out by fraternity chants, speakers the size of buffet plates and ice rattling in coolers as students pluck out another cold one.
The season will start with a week of visitors from more northern locales, but will kick off in earnest as Texas Week commences on March 14. It’s expected to be the busiest for local agencies and businesses. Despite that, large crowds are expected this coming week, too— enough, perhaps, to challenge the traditionally dominant Texas Week itself.
For many establishments that are relatively quiet throughout the year, this burst of population is the equivalent of a defibrillator reigniting the heartbeat of the City. Many will come looking to enjoy themselves by the warm sandy Texas shores, and will leave with sunburn, headaches and little memory of arriving.
The following segment is the fifth and final edition of a weekly series which has led up to Spring Break to inform the Laguna Madre community of how the Island is preparing to face the challenging tasks required to endure the period known as Spring Break 2015.
This is an essential period for many businesses to flourish during the spike in tourism and early indications point to this being a booming recovery from last year’s mild financial disappointment. Last season, Mother Nature’s lack of cooperation and the sorely missed presence of Coca-Cola Beach led to a frustrating season for a community that relies so heavily on the coed influx. This year however, poor northern weather, a strategic city marketing campaign and record low gas prices contributed to the expectation of an uptick in visitors.
“Next week is looking to be every bit as big as so called Texas Week, so it’s going to take some people by surprise,” said Chad Hart, president of Inertia Tours which specializes in Spring Break travel at the Island. “As far as trends go, all the other states are coming in. Coke beach (sic) was a huge drop for Texas schools but for these other schools, they didn’t even know what it was anyway, he said.”
He went on to describe how the diversification of events across the Island as a whole will lead to a prolonged busy season. “The shoulder weeks are looking a lot bigger than they used to be and it’s not just one big concentrated Texas Week when we’re used to seeing big numbers then and these other weeks are so-so,” he said. “Next week you’re going to see a big crowd here.”
With that “big crowd” will be plenty traffic funneling through the lone vehicular avenue for entering the Island. The sheer dynamics of having so many cars come across the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway combined with easily distracted tourists unfamiliar with the region is a major concern each year. Visitors wonder about street parking fees and hours.
Though an eyesore, numerous barricades have been installed to guide motorists unfamiliar with the roads and encourage safer driving to make up for limited crosswalks.
This is what the City is preparing for, but for businesses looking forward to a big season, if estimates hold, they will not be disappointed. Much of the reason for these higher numbers of visitors is attributed to a exponential rise in national advertising and marketing, particularly on social networks. But evidence of whether or not the ramped up advertising campaign leads to bumps in the Laguna Madre economy will have to wait until the season is over.
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