Up 17 percent for the year
An unusually busy spring is resulting in some unusually strong numbers for the Gulf County Tourist Development Council.
Bed tax collections for the month of March, the most recent available, spiked 38 percent compared to the same month in 2017, bringing the year’s collections 17.3 percent above the same period last year.
The TDC is now six months into the fiscal year.
In two of those months, bed tax revenue climbed by 1-2 percent, in another growth was 4.5 percent.
But in the other three months, December, February and March, bed taxes have climbed 27 percent, 22 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
“It seems like the (marketing) we’ve been doing is working,” said TDC executive director Kelli Godwin. “So far, so good.
“We had a great spring break and our spring campaign also impacted March.”
That spring campaign, centered on Instagram and the hashtag #InGulf, was a roaring success.
In the span of just four weeks, 3,200 posts were submitted.
As a comparison, the TDC had used #GCFLNoFilter for some four years and the number of posts to that hashtag has been 3,900.
Another factor in the spring bustout was certainly the Brothers Osborne and their new album “Port Saint Joe.”
Godwin said the press release announcing their release concert at WindMark on April 7 lured some 82 million impressions across media platforms and the area’s exposure through dozens of stories in scores of publications was “free advertising we could not afford to buy,” Godwin said.
The TDC partnered with D.R. Horton and the St. Joe Company to bring the release concert to Port St. Joe.
That weekend highlighted the impact, Godwin said, noting an informal survey of short-term rental companies and local eateries.
“There were people in town paying bed tax, the restaurants were packed” for the concert, Godwin said. “It was well worth our investment.”
And to underscore the impact of tourism in a community where it is the primary economic engine, Godwin discussed numbers from a Visit Florida survey.
In 2016, direct visitor spending in Gulf County totaled $66.8 million; $22.9 million from lodging; $14.5 million for food; $11.9 million on retail; and $8.1 million on recreation.
The tourism sector accounted for nearly one job in four in the county.
The advisory board of the TDC approved Tuesday spending $24,000 in each of the next two fiscal years to partner with the Gulf County Tax Collector’s Office on new software for bed tax collection.
The new software would assist in cutting down on non-compliance and would bring more efficiency to the collection and bookkeeping of bed taxes.
There would also be a component allowing for online submission of bed taxes by collectors.