Kelli Godwin began Monday’s call with a bit of understatement.
The Executive Director of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council was speaking about bed tax revenue for August.
Those numbers, the latest available, showed an increase of 24 percent in revenue compared to the same month last year as well as a yearly increase in bed taxes of 12.68 percent.
In simpler terms, with the new fiscal year starting Monday, the old one is turning out to be a record-breaker with still one month to go in the counting of receipts.
“We had a good, strong August,” Godwin said.
Statistics for September will not be available until the end of this month, but several things are evident without those numbers.
First, the TDC will shatter its revenue record of last year, when bed taxes first eclipsed $2 million; a mere four years after bed tax revenue first topped the $1 million mark.
Second, if September ends in the black, even by $1 compared to the prior fiscal year, the 2017-18 year will go down as having just one month that finished in the red compared to the prior year.
And third, depending on September revenue numbers, the TDC is on track to enjoy the second-largest single annual gain since 2012, removing from the equation the year the county implemented a fifth penny.
The success of August, Godwin said could be due to several factors.
In part, the actual level of improvement tracks in part to two years ago, when one of the largest bed-tax collectors in the county reported July receipts in August.
That skewed August that year, reflected in last fiscal year’s fall of more than $100,000, representing a drop of nearly 35 percent.
That roller coaster evened out this past August; August 2018 was up $41,000 from three years ago, the first with the fifth penny.
“We also had our fall campaign which we felt was part of (August’s jump),” Godwin said. “And I think we got a good boost from scallop season.
“It was later in the year, it was productive, people were planning around it and I think it gave a boost to our more short-term rental partners.”
As of the end of August, the TDC had collected $2.1 million, already pushing past a budget of $2 million and nearly a quarter million dollars ahead of collections at the same time last year.
The TDC is already planning on several campaigns.
Composing, designing and printing the new visitor’s guide is in full swing with a photo shoot scheduled this week.
The TDC team is also planning for the spring campaign as well as a holiday effort to be called “Holiday on the Half Shell.”
In addition, last week the TDC staff began a pilot project to create a certified concierge program among stakeholders.
For the past couple of years, the TDC has focused on providing a concierge service, linking visitors’ desires to the appropriate local outlets through the Welcome Center and its staff.
The concierge program is taking a step forward, with nine frontline hospitality employees in the first class.
“I was really excited with the first class,” Godwin said. “This is our pilot project.”
The initial coursework was performed last week at the Welcome Center and the attendees will continue the course for six weeks.
“A lot of time visitors see those people more than they see us or come to the Welcome Center,” Godwin said. “They want a local source of information.
“It helps if we are all saying the same things. And it is a great way to (disseminate) information on things like scallop season and red tide.”