The Sporadic Economics of the “Spring Break Effect”

“Spring Break”- an alcohol-fueled, money-guzzling phenomenon that has distracted and attracted people since ancient Greece. With all the travelling and partying that spring break implies for much of the college population, it’s worth considering how all this impacts the local economies of popular travel destinations. While college students on break provide a boost of revenue (though the extent of impact this varies by destination), they also cost these locations money in criminal activity.

Via quantitative methods on a variety of case study “host locations,” one 2008 study examines the question, “Is spring break worth the cost of the student impacts?” This study found that students do in fact have a significant effect on tourism revenue of some host locations, though this revenue is secondary to the numbers in July, when families and individuals with more disposable income tend to spend more per person.

On the other hand, the temporary influx of college students is also associated with increases in crime that seem to offset some of the benefits. In one of the case study locations, Panama City Beach, Florida, hotel and sales taxes were low in March, while crime skyrocketed during the month between 2001 and 2005.

What’s clear is that, according to this study, college students are probably not the best tourists for the overall economy of a city or beach town, though they’re better than no tourists. A few hotels and liquor stores may see some temporary spikes in sales, but the beach tourism industry is mainly fueled by the disposable income of an older generation.

But it’s worth thinking about how our vacations impact the places we travel to, economically and otherwise. Though this post focuses on spring break’s economic impacts, the full paper is worth a read for those interested in learning more, as it delves into the cultural impacts of college student tourism as well.

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