Downtown events help boost record Jacksonville tourism season

Downtown street traffic during One Spark 2014.
Downtown street traffic during One Spark 2014.

The opening line of a recent Visit Jacksonville press release read, “What a summer!” We couldn’t agree more.

With tourism increasing state-wide, Jacksonville saw upticks in visitations, including hotel occupancy in Downtown. According to Visit Jacksonville, this increase reached levels never seen in the decade Smith Travel Research has tracked tourism for Duval County. To put it in perspective, this May’s overall room revenue was just under the total for February 2005, when Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl.

“We attribute that growth to many things including a focused marketing effort to promote Jacksonville as a destination where you can explore the outdoors, enjoy a beach vacation, come for a great festival, and visit a vibrant city where there is always something to do,” said Paul Astleford, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville, in the press release. “We are a city of parks, festivals, events, and adventures and this year more and more people are discovering that.”

Downtown remains the epicenter of Jacksonville happenings, home to some of the largest events of this spring and summer. This growing trend means increased economic and cultural vibrancy in the heart of the River City. Here’s an estimated snapshot of attendees of recent major events Downtown:

Jaguars Mega Event crowd

One Spark | April 9 – 13
260,000 people

Welcome to Rockville | April 26 – 27
40,000 people

Jacksonville Jazz Festival | May 22 – 25
20,000 people

Florida Country Superfest | June 14 – 15
43,000 people

Jaguars Mega Event | July 26
(Soccer game, scoreboard unveiling, Carrie Underwood concert)

50,000 people

“All those visitors and busy hotels mean one thing: an infusion of dollars into our local economy that leaves an impact not only on hotels but also on the entire community, with visitors spending their money in local restaurants, stores, attractions and businesses,” Astleford said.

Sharks‘ arena football and Suns‘ minor league baseball brought in thousands of locals to the Sport Complex Area on a regular basis throughout the warmer months. Spring and summer also saw the launch of Downtown’s only evening farmer’s market, Jaxons Night Market, and the trial run of the Downtown Night Trolley.

Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 3.49.54 PMAnd there’s no sign of slowing down. Smith Travel Research estimates the positive trend will continue into the fall. This weekend, for example, is the inaugural Connection Festival, expected to draw thousands. Dubbed by some as a “mini One Spark,” the event includes tons of live music, professional dance performances, art exhibition and workshops, and tech and business meet-ups. The goal of this three-day open-air festival, running Sept. 12 – 14, is to explore how technology amplifies creativity in the arts and business.

To stay in-the-know of all upcoming major events happening Downtown this weekend, this month or the remainder of this year, visit Downtown’s No. 1 resource for events information,