The new director of South Padre Island’s Convention & Visitors Bureau is open to the idea of having cruise ships docking at Texas’ top beach resort.

Ed Caum has only been on the job for four weeks but he is already thinking of the big picture.

Asked about the possibility of cruise ships docking at SPI, Caum said:

Ed Caum

“I think the studies are proving that there are some opportunities there. I really appreciate the fact that the city has stepped up and the county is following along. Let’s do a feasibility study, let’s see what the right size ships are. Let’s see what it costs in mitigation.”

The possibility of having cruise ships dock at South Padre became a serious conversation during outgoing mayor Dennis Stahl’s tenure. Caum, who came from Naples, Florida, said he has been getting up to speed on the issue.

“Let’s make sure that when we mitigate we don’t damage Laguna Madre, or the Gulf. We have to do it smart. That is, what is the right size boat. But, if you can imagine us becoming a regular hub in the foot traffic that would bring to the Island, year round, from cruises, it would be a beautiful thing.”

Before an exclusive interview, Caum had talked to this reporter about recirculating new dollars. He said the impact of the cruise ship industry fits this category.

“Can you imagine having that money come in from all those tourists from all over the Caribbean and from South America and from Mexico? I think it would be a beautiful thing. But I think that is probably a distant operation. Probably ten years or so before we can make that happen, with all the permitting and everything.”

Before coming to SPI, Caum was deputy director of tourism and sports marketing for Naples, Florida. This is a luxury beach destination.

“So, I do know the beaches. If I had left Naples Bay then in a boat and I had headed directly west I would run directly into South Padre Island, Texas. So, I like to say I am from the same latitude and have the Island attitude.”

Asked what the Island attitude is, Caum said: “Let’s make this not only the best beach in Texas but also the best place for families to come visit. We are not only a Spring Break destination. We have been the vacation home of the Valley for generations and we do not want to change that. We want the Valley folks to come on down and enjoy South Padre Island just like their families have done for generations.”

Asked about his top priorities, Caum said it is very important SPI markets itself nationally and internationally.

“When I was hired, the interview committee said they would like me to take us through a strategic plan. So, over the coming months we will get all the Island partners together and have meetings and decide exactly how they want to market South Padre Island so that when we do this strategic plan it will be the Islanders’ plan that we can then put into effect, marketing both in Texas and nationally and also internationally. I would like to go back into the Mexico market.”

Asked about the potential for more business at the SPI convention center, Caum said:

“I think we are poised for growth here. We are going to look at the convention center, the space right now. We are really keeping pretty full. I am going to do is have a feasibility study, brushed up a little bit. We will be using Johnson out of Chicago to take a look at, if we do grow, what is the right size of growth. We want to be able to provide what our partners need on the Island so may be we will have a growth of 30,000 square feet, 50,000 square feet.”

Caum said he got a good idea from SPI police chief Randy Smith.

“The chief said, maybe we could have temporary tent space of 30,000 square feet or so. That might tide us over because it (adding permanent space to the convention center) would take about five years to come to fruition. We are using various ways to keep the convention center full. I think we are going to have a new agency come on board which I will be able to announce after the 1st of October. This agency can really help us do group and meeting markets. That will help us fill in that October, November time frame where we are a little bit slow.”

Asked for some wrap-up remarks, Caum said:

“I am just really glad to be here. The CVB and my team here are here for you. We would love to go back to hosting any kind of events you want out here. We want to go back to hosting some boxing, marshal arts, weddings, whatever the Valley needs. We do a lot of cheer and dance stuff. We are not just a Spring Break destination. We have plenty of months where we can have our neighbors come visit us. My team here at CVB will do whatever we can to make it the best experience possible.”

Ron Whitlock