Tourism continued its 2012 rebound in August with another month of gain in bed tax revenue

Tourism continued its 2012 rebound in August with another month of gain in bed tax revenue.

Bed tax revenues were up by more than 15 percent in August compared to the same month in 2011, making it the eighth month among the 11 thus far reported in the fiscal year to show an increase over 2011.

The 2011-12 fiscal year began in October. Only that first month, July and April were bed tax receipts down compared to the prior year.

“We will continue to strive to continue that upswing,” said Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council.

The increases in revenue – bed tax receipts top $23 million with September’s report remaining to be finalized, an increase from $22.1 million from all of 2011 – is even more striking given the upheaval the agency had been through in the last year.

Those changes, which included the firing of the previous executive director and the hiring of Jenkins and all new office staff, also allowed the county to receive an extension for spending the last of its BP fine marketing dollars.

The TDC was supposed to spend the money by this summer, but the county received an extension until Dec. 31 to spend the remaining $150,000 in BP marketing money the TDC received last year.

The TDC board also continued to work through the final invoices from Kerigan Marketing.

Jack Kerigan explained to the board that three invoices, totaling less than $4,000, had yet to be paid despite the services, in this case television commercials, being completed. The invoices were not on the tracking sheet for the Board of County Commissioners.

TDC board chair David Warriner noted that the TDC had already assured the BOCC that there were no more invoices from Kerigan Marketing and requested Kerigan get with county attorney Jeremy Novak to vet the invoices.

Board member Jay Rish was less patient.

“All of this has gone on long enough,” Rish said. “This was an honest mistake. Jack is an honest businessman. We all know him. Pay the man his money. The services were provided. Pay the man.”

The board tabled the issue for discussion Monday with the Marketing Committee.

That committee will also take up a request from the Semper Fi Sisters for funding for shipping some 1,000 “Boxes of Love” to troops deployed overseas during the Semper Fi Sisters upcoming Beach Blast.

The TDC has already provided $5,000 in marketing money and approved Tuesday spending less than $40 to ship luggage tags in the TDC Visitors Guide going to each of the more than 70 women traveling from across the country for the Beach Blast.

Semper Fi Sisters had asked for assistance on the estimated $13,000 needed for shipping those care packages. The Marketing Committee will take the issue up again on Monday.

The board also approved providing funding for Blast on the Bay, a newly-imagined Scallop Festival for next year and the Fourth of July celebration in Port St. Joe. The TDC board also approved moving ahead on promoting the Celebrate Twice event on New Year’s Eve in partnership with Mexico Beach.

The TDC board also approved $1,000 in funding for a junior high basketball tournament around Thanksgiving at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.

Jenkins said she is pursuing a BP grant of $500,000 to create a branding campaign around the slogan “We Breathe Water” in Gulf County. Jenkins noted that everyone knows about the great beaches in the area, but there were many ways to market the water resources – from the Gulf of Mexico to the Dead Lakes – in the county.

“We need to push ourselves beyond what we are doing right now,” Jenkins said.