Tourists Wear Out Fla. Welcome

April 10, 1995|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Thanks for coming. Glad you could make it. But now. . .

But now many South Florida natives say they're ready for the annual four-month crush known as "The Season" to end and for the guests to go home.

"They're annoying, they don't know where they're going, they're always talking about how wherever they came from is better than here," said full-time Florida resident Harlee Fisher. "I'm so sick of the traffic and the waiting in line."

In 1994, almost 40 million tourists poured into Florida. They clogged roads, packed restaurants, and bumped permanent residents off golf courses.

They also added $33.3 billion to the state's economy, up about 3 percent from a lackluster 1993, Florida Division of Tourism officials said.

In South Florida, the lion's share of that windfall comes during the "high season" months of January, February and March. Retailers and restaurant owners summarize what the wintertime months mean to them in just two, all-important words: "More money."

But for full-time residents and many service industry workers, yesterday, the unofficial season-ender, will bring a welcome respite.

"We're like, 'Aaahhh, finally,' " said Richard Green, kitchen manager at the Seafood Connection, a Boca Raton eatery. "It's stressful during the season. It's like four straight months of stress."

"The end will be sort of a relief," agreed Cherry Salley, a patient representative at Broward General Medical Center. "We've been seeing a lot of car accidents. The tourists are on the road sightseeing, they don't look where they're going and they run into each other."

Season's end also lightens the workload for the area's bridge operators as seasonal visitors put their vessels in dry dock or take them home.

"During the winter, you've got so many boats, sometimes it looks like you could walk across the waterway," said a bridgetender at the 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale. He declined to give his name, perhaps fearing tourist retribution.

Summer also means that year-round residents regain access to their favorite restaurants, sports facilities and vacation spots. Many car rental companies and hotels drop their rates by about 20 percent starting May 1, said Bill Dodd, spokesman for the Automobile Association of America-Florida.

Golfers willing to tolerate the increasingly muggy, buggy weather can take advantage of bargain-basement greens fees and better tee times.

Even as they leave, tourists and seasonal residents will create a traffic jam of a different sort, backing up customer service lines at Florida Power and Light and Southern Bell, which will suspend electrical and phone service for thousands of snowbirds. And for postal workers, April means an avalanche not only of tax forms but of change-of-address requests.

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