As the first half of the year see-sawed, tourist officials pointed to July as a bellwhether for the current fiscal year

As the first half of the year see-sawed, tourist officials pointed to July as a bellwhether for the current fiscal year.

July tolled a 38 percent increase in bed collections compared to the same month the prior year and the result is a boost to the bottom line on bed tax collections by the Gulf County Tourist Development Council.

Having spent much of the year with growth in the single digits, the TDC now sits 14 percent above last year.

“Thirty-eight percent is awesome,” said TDC director Kelli Godwin, promoted after the departure of Jennifer Adams. “I will definitely take it.

“July was down 5 percent last year compared to the previous year. Talking to lodging partners there was several factors for that, but this year it was a strong month.”

In addition, the July numbers provide some solace from the ongoing saga about whether or not there would be a scallop season in St. Joseph Bay.

Godwin said the feedback has been somewhat mixed, though lodging partners in particular have indicated a negligible impact.

“We’ve had mixed feedback (on the impact of a closed season),” Godwin said. “But most of the lodging partners we have talked to say it hasn’t really had that much of an impact.”

Part of that, Godwin said, is the myriad options for enjoying the bay and local waters and a push in the past two years to create a concierge service out of the TDC, aiming to match visitors with recreational options through TDC partners.

That is just one component to the TDC’s marketing focus in recent years on the adventure traveler, the eco-tourist.

“People now know we’ll hook you up with a great adventure,” Godwin said. “People are still excited to be here. They know they’ll have a great time.”

For the year, TDC bed tax collections as of July 31 were $1.69 million, $201,148 ahead of last year.

That continues a strong trend this decade: bed tax revenues topped $1 million for the first time in 2012-13.

Since that year, annual growth has been 9.41 percent, 39 percent and14 percent, running to just shy of $1.9 million last year.

The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The TDC is in a state of transition, Godwin said.

On the front burner remains the rollout of a new brand, “live unpacked” and logo and upgrades to other messaging and marketing.

The overall message focuses on adventure traveling and families with young children, informing the visitor of the future.

“The brand is going strong,” Godwin said. “It has a lot of steam behind it.”

The transition will continue in-house, as the Board of County Commissioners has decided to replace Adams’ marketing focus by hiring at least one new person, possibly two, to manage marketing campaigns.

The BOCC terminated the marketing contract with no luggage.

That due to changes the BOCC is enacting concerning the fifth-penny of TDC collections, earmarked for parks and recreation.

The BOCC is segregating the majority of those dollars over the next several years to help fund improvements to the Benny Roberts Fields Park on 10th Street in Port St. Joe.