SPI Businesses Feel Pinch from Hurricane Harvey

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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – Although the massive category four Hurricane Harvey didn’t make landfall in the Rio Grande Valley, South Padre Island businesses are feeling the effects of the storm.

Ron Guillot owns an island restaurant and watersports venue.

"We have fun here," said Guillot. "It's a paycheck! It's my job!"

Every year, island business owners expect revenues to gradually decrease in the fall, but Hurricane Harvey brought peak vacation time to an early and unexpected end.

Labor Day usually marks the end of optimum vacation season, but that wasn't the case. 

"It did hurt us quite a bit," said Guillot. "We still had to pay staff, but we didn't have the business that we normally would get during those first couple weeks in September."

Guillot isn't the only business owner who took a hit from Harvey.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned SPI's August sales tax revenue was 7.68 percent lower than its 2016 mark. That's a dip of about $27,000. The numbers for September aren't in yet.

Captain Eli Wisner operates the watersports branch of the business. He claims people from across the country wanted to avoid the Lone Star State in wake of Harvey's aftermath.

"They didn't want to travel through Texas," said Wisner. "Not even the following weeks. They didn't want to mess with it."

Keith Arnold, SPI's Convention and Visitors Bureau director, said people from across the country assumed the island was also impacted by the storm.

"Everyone saw day after day, hour after hour, all the devastation along the Texas Gulf Coast and the assumption was that we're on the Texas Gulf Coast, therefore we were hurt," said Arnold.

Guillot told CHANNEL 5 NEWS island business owners also battle misconceptions about their geographic location.

Many mistake the South Padre Island for South Padre Island Drive in North Padre Island, off the coast of Corpus Christi.

"We get a lot of people that call us to make parasail reservations. 'We want to fly today at two o'clock!' It's 12 noon and they're in North Padre."

About $300,000 will be allocated to the I-35 corridor advertising plans. They will be selling the message South Padre Island is great and had no impact from Harvey. Another $100,000 will be directed to people right here in the Rio Grande Valley.

"We're here. We're open and we're beautiful," said Arnold.

Guillot said he can plan, but there's very little he can do to counteract Mother Nature.

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