Jekyll Island sees rise in visitors
The Brunswick News
ERIKA CAPEK
April 19, 2011

Jekyll Island officials saw more visitors at the state park this past March than during the same month a year ago.

Compared to March 2010, $5-daily parking pass sales were up 7 percent, and full-year parking decal sales were up 8 percent. There was also a 5 percent increase in the number of vehicles that went onto Jekyll Island this past March, compared to a year ago, and the number of vehicles with decals increased 2 percent, officials said Monday during Jekyll Island Authority committee meetings.

"We're continuing to have more people come onto the island," said Marjorie Johnson, chief accounting officer of the Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the island park.

Hotel revenue and the percentage of rooms occupied on Jekyll Island also increased in March, compared to the year before. Total revenue was $1.88 million this past month, with 64.1 percent of units occupied. In March 2010, revenue was $1.87 million, with an occupancy rate of 55.7 percent.

That's good news for Jekyll Island officials who hope to draw more visitors to the island.

Ongoing revitalization efforts, including a 128,000-square-foot convention center under construction, are expected to bring in many new groups and visitors. The convention center is slated to open in 2012 in conjunction with a beach village project that includes two new hotels, shops and lofts. Construction of the beach village has not begun.

At the next authority meeting in May, the three developers chosen for parts of the beach village plan will provide updates on their projects.

Looking ahead to when the beach village and convention center are expected to be completed, 29 groups are under contract to hold meetings on Jekyll Island during 2012, with another nine groups pending. For 2013, the first full year the convention center will be open, 50 letters of intent have been signed.

Eric Garvey, spokesperson for the Jekyll Island Authority, said the goal for 2013 is to have 70 events. "Right now we're pretty much selling into 2013 and beyond," he said.

By 2015, he said, officials want to have a consistent booking of 120 events a year. That would be about four times the number of events the island has had the past few years, which averaged about 30 to 35 per year, Garvey said.