Island’s economy thriving

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Summertime is when people make hay, so to speak in Avalon. It’s a time when some local folks work two or three jobs, like industrious ants, some claiming the wisdom to save for the lean season.

If the summer season is slow it impacts all the Island’s merchants and businesses, big and small, in the town that survives on the tourism industry.

Summertime is when people make hay, so to speak in Avalon. It’s a time when some local folks work two or three jobs, like industrious ants, some claiming the wisdom to save for the lean season.

If the summer season is slow it impacts all the Island’s merchants and businesses, big and small, in the town that survives on the tourism industry.

The number of visitors to Catalina dropped significantly after May 2007, when a fire that broke out in the hills burned 4,750 acres. The fire loomed large over the town of Avalon, but ultimately only one residence and six commercial structures were destroyed.

The national attention apparently dissuaded many potential visitors from visiting the Island. Things were made more difficult when the recession hit the entire country. It was a double whammy for the Island, but most merchants were able to hang on and slowly things began to improve as Avalon businesses faced the challenges.

It apparently helped that even as visitor counts had dropped, the Santa Catalina Island Company stepped up and began adding new attractions to draw visitors to the Island such as its popular Zipline ride.

Meanwhile, the Island still had its historical ambiance that lured event promoters such as Ron Truppa to initiate his Catalina Island Film Festival that boosts visitor counts when it takes place in May.

The good news, according to Wayne Griffin, president and chief executive officer for the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, is that despite the national recession visitor counts to Catalina have been on the rise over the past couple of years.

“We are up this year over last year and last year we were up over the previous year,” Griffin said.

The up tick in visitor counts includes both the busy and slower seasons, thanks to ongoing after-season events such as the recent JazzTrax music festival that runs over three weekends in October. Other events such as the Catalina Island Festival of Art and the Chamber’s Triathlon this weekend and the Eco Marathon the following weekend are helping to keep people coming to the Island.

Another event that helped boost the visitor counts in 2010 was the reintroduction of the Catalina Island Motorcycle Grand Prix. While it was an overall success, its was not held in 2011 or this year. However, Griffin said there are plans to bring the motorcycle event back as soon as possible.  

“Events like the Motorcycle Grand Prix are not dependent on the weather,” Griffin said. “In fact, if it rains a little and makes it a bit muddy, the participants like it better that way.”

Griffin said it is hard to find major events on Catalina that are not dependent on the summertime weather and the allure of Catalina as a warm “Island of Romance.” Ideas that can help make Catalina a year-round destination are welome.

Island’s economy thriving