Visitors and Tybee locals sat for hours in traffic this weekend following a head on collision accident on the Bull River Bridge. Traffic to Tybee no doubt increases during the summer months, but how much has it really grown in the past years?
Tourism and city leaders are set to unveil a new economic impact study detailing how much tourism on the island has grown. What these numbers show, they hope can arm city and county leaders wit evidence that road projects here should be state priority.
“Double digit growth every year as far as overnight visitors, Tybee has been discovered, and a lot of people are continuing to visit here each and every year,” says Tybee Vacation Rentals president Amy Gaster.
Since 2014 more than a million people paid Tybee Island a visit, according to numbers exclusively given to News 3 from the yet to be released impact study. Keith Gay with the tourism council has watched Tybee grow for more than fifteen years, but the numbers surprised even him.
“I don’t think we realized how significant, 63% of traffic is day time traffic,” says Tybee tourism council chairman Keith Gay citing from the study.
That means nearly two out three visitors to Tybee are from surrounding counties set on spending a day on the beach. But when accidents along highway 80 lead to hours of waiting, that could turn some business away.
“The citizens of Tybee Island are stuck here and cannot leave the island, the citizens of Chatham county cannot get to Tybee Island, if they do get here they can end up getting suck for hours on end,” Gaster says.
More than three thousand people call Tybee Island home. According to city numbers on vehicular traffic from the beginning summer months, the city has seen on average upwards to 25,000 plus cars cross over to the island over weekends.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have more than ten thousand visitors on one day, on one weekend day,” Gay says citing numbers he received from the Lazaretto Creek tracker.
As the new study gets set to be released, Tybee tourism looks like it’s going no where but up. City and business leaders that place stakes in the industry, hope the state will take notice.
“We’re not just Tybee’s beach, we’re Savannah’s beach, we’re Georgia’s beach,” Gaster says, “we’re the coast and everyone wants to come visit here and it’s tybee’s job to provide a safe and hospitable community for all it’s visitors.”
That official Tybee Island economic impact study was just put in the hands of city council members at the beginning of the month. They are expected to unveil it’s full findings before the month is out but may decide to disclose the numbers later in the summer.
Now we also reached out to the Georgia DOT for an update on the proposed Highway 80 project. They confirmed with News 3 that they plan to launch a website and public study on the project before fall.