By all accounts the month of October was a strong one for tourism in Gulf County.
Save one account; the bottom line on bed tax revenue.
The Tourist Development Council saw bed tax numbers fall by nearly 12 percent in October following two months of increases of over 26 percent.
The decrease was in contrast to most visual evidence.
“Our October was pretty good, at both properties,” said David Warriner, chair of the TDC advisory council and president of Tapper & Company, which owns the Port Inn and Mainstay Suites.
Other collectors echoed that, one saying it was their “best October ever.”
But TDC executive director Jennifer Jenkins said in researching how the bed tax numbers could fall so dramatically while by all appearances business was good, found a potential glitch in how the county allows collectors to report income and taxes.
Jenkins said she was informed by Tax Collector Shirley Jenkins that all collectors of bed tax have the choice of reporting by month or by quarter.
Collectors simply check a box for whether they wish to report monthly or by quarter.
“If October was a really good month there are some collectors who won’t report that until December,” Jenkins said.
She added that factor, in part, would help explain months in which the numbers spiked by 20 percent or more – January, September.
That reporting schedule does not erase a year in which bed tax revenue increased by more than 14 percent and revenue topped $1 million for the first time, but Jenkins said it could impact the marketing efforts for her team.
Jenkins has honed a marketing program for the coming year which is highly targeted by region and by season and month.
“My biggest concern is our marketing which has been targeted to the numbers,” Warriner said.
Jenkins and Warriner, with assistance from County Commissioner Warren Yeager, will sit down with the Tax Collector’s Office staff on feasible ways to address the issue.
Yeager agreed that bed tax collectors should report by the month.
“We need those numbers right so we can strategize,” he said.
The TDC advisory board agreed to provide up to $3,000 in special funding to No Worries Vacation Rentals to support events to entertain winter tourists.
Jenkins noted that No Worries has put on a series of events at WindMark Beach in past years and Debbie Jasinski said the company wished to do more to “entertain” guests and expand the events beyond WindMark.
Among those events would be breakfasts, an Appreciation Day, arts and crafts bazaar and a night of country line dancing.
“It would enhance the tourism for something to do and we’d like them to stay here,” Jasinski said, noting the winter tourists tend to be active folks.
The council also agreed to special funding of no more than $4,000 to support the Forgotten Coast Plein Air Paint Out this year with an eye toward the 10th anniversary of the event in 2015.
Gulf County will host Student Art Day, the opening luncheon and closing night event.
“That will help us bring the level of the these events higher than we have in the past,” said Natalie Shoaf of the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition, which sponsors the plein air event, which has become “a regional event.”