When Florida broke up with spring breakers, South Padre Island came calling

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With Miami publicly breaking up with Spring Break, South Padre Island is looking to get more serious in its relationship with spring breakers as long as it stays healthy and profitable without any nonsense.

In a social media campaign by Miami Beach that went viral, the city broke up with Spring Break in a video saying: “It’s not us, it’s you.”

The video lists the reasons why the relationship didn’t work out after consecutive years of Spring Break violence and included several measures to curb spring breakers.

Some of the things put in place for spring breakers at Miami Beach are curfews, bag checks, restricted beach access, DUI checkpoints, $100 parking and strong police enforcement for drug possession and violence.

Spring breakers are seen on South Padre Island during Texas Week in March 2024. (Courtesy: SPI CVB)

SPI on the other hand is pro-Spring Break, welcoming all types of visitors that come to the Island during March and is looking to capitalize on people being pushed away while also maintaining the peace.

SPI Convention & Visitor Bureau (CVB) Executive Director Blake Henry said he understands the reasoning behind Miami Beach’s Spring Break measures, but it is certainly not the approach that SPI is taking.

“We take the complete opposite view,” Henry said. “We welcome spring breakers and recognize the value that they bring to our community as far as the economic dollars that are associated with their business.”

From August to March, Henry described it as an off season for the Island with the regular beach season starting March 1.

Spring breakers are seen on South Padre Island during Texas Week in March 2024. (Courtesy: SPI CVB)

“We’re certainly less restrictive than what Miami is doing, but we do have a lot of law enforcement here,” he said “We’re not a destination where you can fire guns and go crazy. We’ll seek you out and put you behind bars … but if you want to party responsibly and have fun with your friends and family, this is a place to be, but we’ll have a zero-tolerance approach for nonsense.”

March features several events such as Semana Santa and Texas Week where college students from across the state and nation are drawn to SPI for a week of partying.

“We market around the country for them to come down here,” Henry said. “I know it takes a hot minute to get to us but with what’s happening in the Florida markets … it opens up new markets for us going into next year and beyond.”

According to the CVB director, last March had over 1.7 million visitors to the Island. That number is based on the number of vehicles that crossed the Queen Isabella Causeway. March 2023 had 746,152 crossings.

Spring breakers are seen on South Padre Island during Texas Week in March 2024. (Courtesy: SPI CVB)

He added that those numbers have been increasing every year since the COVID-19 pandemic but just haven’t returned to pre-pandemic numbers.

The Island saw about 858,678 crossings in March 2018 and 755,903 crossings in March 2019.

The influx of people in March gives the Island an economic boost. According to the CVB, in March 2023 the Island received about $1.87 million from estimated event impact from sales and special events.

Also in March 2023, the Island gained just over $1 million from the hotel occupancy tax, $58,000 from sales tax and $509,963 from the mixed beverage tax.

With Florida going forward with a restrictive attitude toward spring breakers, Blake believes it is something SPI can capitalize off of and draw even more people to the Island.

“I suspect that next year, especially given the zero tolerance in Florida, that perhaps we’ll be able to market in new destinations in the northeast to attract even more visitor-ship next March,” Blake said.

One key component of marketing to new places that were once areas for Florida markets is building brand awareness and letting people know SPI is another viable Spring Break destination with Henry adding that a lot of people don’t even know about the Island.

Alongside marketing toward spring breakers, Henry said SPI is also pro-family as well and aims to make the Island a year-long destination for all walks of life.

“We want to be that Spring Break destination and we welcome spring breakers from all over the country,” he said. “We’d love to have their business and have them come down here, make memories, have fun and spend their time on the Island … We don’t want the nonsense of course but I do believe people can gather and do lots of things on the island and keep people engaged in a safe and orderly manner.”