VENICE, Fla. - If you have been out and about lately, you may have noticed there are a lot more people in the area. The Suncoast is nearing the height of tourism season, and the brutal winter up north is perhaps bringing even more than normal.
In case it slipped by you....it's been cold around much of the country. "With the wind chill it was minus 20's," says Chicago resident Sean Neuman. 20 hours later, he is on the Suncoast soaking up the rays. “The cold definitely played a role in the decision. It was a last minute decision to just get in the car and drive down."
Sean isn't alone.
"The season is definitely here. We are getting really busy," says Justin Pachota, co-owner of Sharky’s on the Pier in Venice.
February and March are typically busy times, but right now it seems more so. An example was the line outside Sharky's Restaurant Tuesday morning. Pachota can't help but notice the hundreds of people lining the beach, too. “I think over the last few years the beaches have started to get a little more crowded. Venice Beach is growing in popularity."
The jetties and downtown Venice are seeing their share, too. The good news is it's good for the local economy.
Governor Rick Scott recently touted that for every 85 visitors, one job is created.
“We added over 120 jobs from last year to this year," says Pachota.
"It's busy. I don't think that I've ever seen it this busy," says Venice resident Rich Lubanski.
The bad news is it can put a major strain on just about everything. Locals like Lubanski have noticed the roadways, bridges, and parking lots are feeling a little tight. "There has got to be a saturation level. At some point you have to build more bridges and more roads or something. It's a big undertaking."
A record of nearly 95 million people visited Florida last year -- a 3.5% increase from the year before.
Where will it stop? Not with Sean. "Heaven…this is as good as it gets."