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Want a beach chair? Take your pick

Where have all the tourists gone?

Florida wildfires wreak havoc with Daytona tourism

July 6, 1998
Web posted at: 3:07 p.m. EDT (1507 GMT)

From CNN Correspondent Gary Tuchman

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Want a beach chair in Daytona Beach? You can have as many as you want. Just ask the man who usually rents 30 or more on a summer weekend.

"Now, we're lucky to do two or three families each day," said Greg Northrup.

The problem? Daytona Beach's proximity to the wildfires in Florida makes many of the days smoky and somewhat smelly.

"It's like having your face and your nose in a barbecue pit," according to one beachgoer.

For the latest on the Florida wildfires, follow CNN Interactive's coverage.

There are some breaks during the day when the smoke goes away and the sun Daytona is famous for shines brightly. But the beaches, which would normally be packed, are relatively empty, and stores have to remind tourists that they're open.

"This is one of my worst summers," says store owner Khalid Fazal. "I cannot say it's slow -- that would indicate there was some activity. It's been dead."

Independence Day weekend is normally one of the busiest of the year. Some hotels were overbooked for the Pepsi 400 stock car race that was to be held at the Daytona racetrack. But the race was canceled due to the fires, so hotels are now offering special rates for evacuated residents, in an effort to be good citizens and to fill up empty rooms.

Share your thoughts on Florida's disastrous summer fires.

"Last night was very quiet, less than 50 percent occupancy," said Dominic Fraticelli of the Daytona Beach Hilton. "This is not the normal Fourth of July weekend."

Daytona Beach is a spring break hotspot, and this past spring was a very good one business-wise. Many are now hoping for an even better spring in 1999 to help make up for the summer of 1998.

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