H-OCEANO DUNES

May 27, 2013 8:35 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Memorial Day weekend brings in big bucks from tourists

Many businesses along the Central Coast got an economic boost this weekend and most say it couldn't have come at a better time.

Events from Paso Robles to Arroyo Grande brought thousands into the area and many stayed to enjoy what San Luis Obispo County has to offer.

It's the kickoff to summer travel, and Memorial Day serves as a great economic forecaster for the months ahead.

A big chunk of the San Luis Obispo County economy comes from tourism, and this weekend nearly 200,000 tourists rolled into town. According to local businesses, they were geared up to spend money.

"This memorial weekend was a lot better than it was last year," said Jose Guevara, manager of Angello's ATV rentals.

He says over the last few days, they've rented out more than 1,00 ATVs.

Guevara attributes much of the foot traffic to the Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival and other surrounding events.

"Our economy being a tourist based economy, and the kind of business we do, people are only here so many times a year so we have to be sure that we can get the best out of them," said Guevara.

Like many businesses here, he hopes this weekend is an indication of a booming summer.

According to Reuters, consumers have been spending despite high prices for gas and food. In fact, more than 32 million took to the roads over the holiday weekend.

California Coast Candy, a staple near the Oceano Dunes, is cashing in on the extra visitors this weekend.

"I bet you we're up at least ten or fifteen percent from last year, maybe more," Neil Velie, owner of California Coast Candy.

He says over the last few years small ticket items like candy have been flying off the shelves; however, sales of items like sweatshirts have been low.

"This year, like I've said, we've noticed people are starting to buy sweatshirts again and souvenirs for their annual vacation which is nice," said Velie.

A sweet start that these stores hope will only add to the $2 billion tourist industry in SLO County.

According to the California State Parks, all 1,000 camping spots were sold out at the Dunes this weekend and they can only hope for this type of turnout in the upcoming summer months.

The Strawberry Festival in Arroyo Grande was a big driver of this weekend's business.

According to Festival officials, more than 150,000 filled the downtown village over the holiday weekend.

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