Counterpoint: Clearwater Beach’s commercialism good for tourism
March 18, 2014
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Taking in the vast ocean, smelling the salty air, and hearing the calls of seagulls above, an eight year old boy from Oklahoma stands in awe of where he is. He breaks into a sprint, racing into the crashing waves and feeling the warm sand between his toes for the first time in his life. The boy has seen photos and videos of beaches, but up until this point, being on a real beach was just a dream.
A woman scans the shelves of the gift shop when a bright blue shell catches her eye. She picks up the shell, delicately placing it in her palm, and smiles. It will be the perfect thing to put in her New Jersey office, serving as a memento of her sunny week in Clearwater when the snow starts to fall up north.
Traffic is thick, and cars inch along slowly, prolonging a man’s trip home from work. He sighs in exasperation, as the stress of his day continually mounts. The billboard to his left reads, “Visit Clearwater Beach!” A smile spreads across his face as he picks up the phone to call his wife. “I think we should get out of town for a while,” he says. “What do you think of Florida?”
Clearwater Beach is made for tourists. People not only across the nation but also worldwide choose it as an escape from their mundane jobs and dreary climates at home. It is a world-class beach known best for its tropical temperatures, natural beauty, and easily accessible accommodations. It is also essential to the economy of Clearwater. According to tampabay.com, the economic impact of tourism in Pinellas County in 2012 was valued at $7.8 billion thanks to the over 5.4 million people who visited the county.
As a Clearwater local, it can be easy to take the beach for granted. Locals have access to it every day, whereas most people only have a week or two out of the entire year to enjoy the beach. Although the differences between a tourist and a local are typically very clear, both share a common goal of having a nice day at the beach. However, what that day entails often varies between the two.
Tourists like buying tacky souvenirs. They like seeing hotels on every block. They like having a variation of things to do, including shopping. Most of all, they like having all these things in a concentrated area so that they don’t have to worry about transportation. Almost everything is within walking distance of where they stay. To locals, the beach may seem overly commercialized. To tourists, it’s practical. To the city of Clearwater, it’s gold.
It is understandable for Floridians to desire a simpler and less crowded beach day, but that is what beaches like Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands are for. Most beach goers who aren’t from Florida don’t even know these locations exist. If locals choose to go to Clearwater beach, then they are bound to run into chain stores and tons of people slathered in sunscreen. If they are fine with this, then there is no problem, but they do have plenty of other options if tourism is too much of a distraction for them.
Clearwater beach is full of hotels, restaurants, and shops. It is a place packed with all sorts of people from across the world. It does its best to draw in a wide range of visitors and have something that appeals to each one. None of this should be changed; it’s all a part of Clearwater’s integrated culture.