Nine months into the fiscal year bed tax collections seem to have settled into the new normal.
Tourism revenue for June dropped nearly 24 percent compared to the prior year, but focusing on that one number is deceiving in this year after Hurricane Michael.
The percentage is almost identical to the prior two months, which saw downward movement in bed taxes of 25 percent and 26 percent compared to the prior year.
And, that could very well reflect the reality, held by TDC officials months ago, that roughly 70 percent of the lodging units available before Michael would ultimately return.
“We are holding steady,” said TDC executive director Kelli Godwin. “It seems like it is right on target for that 70 percent of inventory.”
For the fiscal year, October 1 to Sept. 30, the TDC has already collected over $1 million in bed taxes; bed tax collections first eclipsed $1 million just six years ago.
One million dollars was also the budget the TDC adopted after Michael, figuring if bed taxes hit 50 percent of 2017-2018, $2.1 million, that would represent a positive.
And, it is worth going back those six years to consider that this year’s June revenue, $339,733, is higher in terms of dollars than all but the past two years.
In June 2013, bed tax collections were $222,875.
So, a drop of just 23 percent for the year, as is the case entering the final three months, isn’t giving off the sky-is-falling vibe.
“If we end the year down under 30 percent, I will be very pleased,” Godwin said in mild understatement.
“Our partners have worked hard getting back up and going and bringing such a positive message of rebuilding.”
Staying below a 30 percent decline for the year may not be such a stretch as the next few months figure to be busy on the visitor front.
Tonight is a free concert, “Endless Summer” at WindMark.
“We are not involved but that’s a great thing to add to our events schedule,” Godwin said.
The TDC began its fall marketing campaign this week, an Instagram-based effort around the concept of “resiliency.”
And, on the ground, scallop season is just around the corner, opening Aug. 16, and the surveys of the adult population indicate record-breaking numbers, at least in comparison to the past decade.
In fact, the abundance documented by researchers in St. Joseph Bay this spring has been equaled only once in the state in the past eight years.
“We will go out with the (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) next week to help continue the restoration efforts,” Godwin said.
The past three years, county staff has assisted in collecting scallops to place in cages in the Bay as part of efforts to restore a population considered “collapsed” just three years ago.
And, scallop season will bring the return of the Scallop and Music Festival, in a somewhat scaled-down version, over Labor Day weekend, the details not yet finalized.
Producer Rick Ott is handling the music and the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce is lining up the vendors.
In addition, at 6:30 p.m. ET Aug. 22, the TDC will host an Open House at the St. Joseph Bay Golf Club, recently purchased by the Board of County Commissioners.
“Folks will be able to see some improvements we’ve made to the facility and meet the new golf pro,” Godwin said. “We are excited about that and we have been happy with the support and activity out there.”
“It will be a good August and we have a ton of events coming in October.”
Those events will focus on the anniversary of Hurricane Michael.
The TDC will host “Rise Up” 4-7 p.m. ET Oct. 10 with sponsors providing food, musical entertainment, including a singer/songwriter who composed a song for the community, a slide show of Michael’s impacts and the rebuild followed by a moment of silence and a lighting of Cape San Blas Lighthouse.
“That will be a good symbol of our return,” Godwin said.
That will be followed by “Stronger than the Storm” in Veterans Memorial Park at Beacon Hill the following Saturday and “50 for Florida,” a race and auction attempting to raise several hundred thousand dollars for the area.
More details as they become available.