Spring campaign ends, The Brothers Osborne Saturday


There was a feeling at the Gulf County Welcome Center that February was a mighty fine month for local tourism.

That feeling was translated into dollars last week as February bed tax numbers came in and totaled just shy of 22 percent over February 2017, and that was a month which saw an increase over 3.5 percent over the prior year.

In other words, growth, “responsible growth,” said Kelli Godwin, executive director of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council, continues in the tourism segment, the county’s main economic engine.

Toss in the February numbers and the bed tax collection during the fiscal year that began in October is now 9.8 percent above the prior fiscal year; in dollars that equals a jump of $36,314 over five months.

Push that out to the full fiscal year, and bed tax collections, which have risen each of the past four years, and has done so even if eliminating the fifth penny enacted three years ago, are on target to top $2.2 million.

That would come five years after collections eclipsed $1 million for the first time.

“Last year we finished about 7 percent up so the goal was steady, responsible growth,” Godwin said. “We were thrilled when we got the numbers.

“We knew it, we felt it was busy. But that was a great number.”

In addition to the volume, the demographics of the pre-spring, late-winter travelers was different this year, Godwin said.

“It was a different crowd,” Godwin said. “We had a lot of our usual visitors, but we also had a lot of people with families.

“They were having their midwinter breaks. We saw a lot of license plates from Michigan and Tennessee and states like that. They are places where they are starting to have school year-round.”

And the increase in families along this slice of paradise was a specific goal of TDC marketing efforts over the past four or five years.

“Families are always going to be our bread and butter, along with the adventure traveler and in a lot of cases those are families,” Godwin said.

“We had a lot of people in the Welcome Center (during February). Now, we are having Atlanta spring break.”

And, if there is such as a thing as “feeling” concerning how lodging and eating partners are faring this month, the weeks immediately prior to and after Easter have carried positive vibes.

“We are hopping right now,” said David Ashbrook with the Port Inn and MainStay Suites. “We had a little bit of dip in March, but for the year we are ahead of last year.

“We are very busy right now.”

Another potential factor in a busy start to the year, Godwin said, is the just-completed spring marketing campaign, the main prong of which was an Instragram campaign around #InGulf.

As in, how do you “engulf” yourself in adventure, in vacation.

Godwin said the TDC would be announcing the winner, a woman from Georgia, soon; she will win a seven-day vacation package.

“In the four weeks that it ran we had 3,200 posts,” Godwin said. “We’ve had marketing hash tags we have used for four years and (#InGulf) had nearly as many posts in four weeks.

“This has just really taken off.”

With summer months around the corner, this week has been about finalizing the preparations for the performance by The Brothers Osborne Saturday afternoon on the green at WindMark.

Partnering with The St. Joe Company and D.R. Horton, the TDC is hosting the concert which will serve as the release of The Brothers Osborne’s new album, “Port Saint Joe.”

The Grammy-, CMA-nominated brothers recorded the album in a Gulf County beach house during a two-week period last year and decided to name the release after the location of its birth.

The concert, with a limit of 500 tickets, sold out the morning tickets went on sale in late March.