One of the nation’s most offbeat events demonstrates the value of tourism to a coastal community. The 2013 Interstate Mullet Toss drew an estimated 35,000 attendees during its three-day run at the Flora-Bama Lounge in late April, and 46 percent were drawn to the Pensacola area specifically by the event, according to a study by Majority Opinion Research. The survey found the 2013 event, which started on a small scale nearly 30 years ago, generated $10.4 million in spending as attendees took up 5,558 room nights in motels and condos, dined at local restaurants, and visited Pensacola’s many attractions. “The Mullet Toss has been drawing comparable crowds for the last several years,” said Cam Price, a co-owner of the Flora-Bama Lounge, a legendary beach bar. “We draw people here and we give people something to do while they’re here.”
The Mullet Toss turnout is just one of many high notes in Perdido Key’s tourism industry for 2013. Bed tax collections from tourists have been rising in the Perdido Key area, which includes zip codes 32506 and 32507. The total rose from$982,085 in fiscal year 2010 to $1.2 million in FY 2011 to $1.4 million in FY 2012. The latest numbers for FY 2013, through May, were $713,497. The increase in bed tax revenue is good news for other reasons: It means more jobs for people throughout the Pensacola area, and not just in beach businesses. Tourist purchases are felt throughout the community – malls, downtown nightclubs, area theaters.