Tourism tax figures released by the Tourist Development Council show more “heads in beds” in Franklin County during March and April than any other spring since 2005, when the tax was first implemented.



The state sales tax report shows more than $80,880 in tourism tax revenues were collected from visitors during March, and $90,000 during April. The numbers represent an 11 percent increase to an industry that last year generated more than $40 million in lodging revenues alone.



Industry officials say if the current trend holds, Franklin County’s lodging industry is on track to generate nearly $44 million in revenue during 2013, making it an important economic force behind jobs and economic development countywide.



“We’re excited to see such a significant increase in occupancy for what has been typically an offseason period,” said TDC board member Paul Parker. “We are looking forward to a great year and we’re hopeful that the trend will continue and that tourism revenue will help drive jobs and economic development.”



Franklin County’s increase in tourism is currently running about twice the state percentage. According to estimates released in May by VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, 26 million visitors came to Florida in the first quarter of 2013 (January-March), an increase of 4.7 percent over the same period in 2012.



Tourism officials say they hope the increased visitor traffic brings continued jobs and responsible growth.



“We are business friendly,” said Franklin County Commissioner and TDC Board Chair Pinki Jackel. “Whether it’s seafood, responsible tourism or environmentally friendly businesses, we’re always happy to see environmentally friendly industries and businesses that would be a good fit for Franklin County.”



Parker agreed. “Based on the state numbers, every 85 visitors we welcome to Franklin County create one job,” he said. “Statewide, Florida’s hospitality industry added nearly 36,000 new career-building jobs this quarter alone, marking the 36th straight month of job growth for the tourism sector.



“That’s important information for the state and it’s important information for Franklin County,” he said. “If the TDC can be a part of helping to foster job growth through its efforts to promote responsible tourism here, then we’ve accomplished a lot.”



Franklin County’s tourism marketing efforts are currently funded through a 2 percent tourism tax collected from visitors by lodging providers countywide. Commissioners are weighing a proposal to double the bed tax to 4 percent, which would bring in approximately $800,000 more per year to TDC coffers.



 



The year so far



A look at bed tax numbers shows that the current fiscal year is running well ahead of last year, which brought in more than $916,000 in revenue.



 



                           2011-12   2012-13                   Difference             YTD Change



October            $48,383   $53,543                   $5,160                     10.67%



November        $34,441   $40,334                   $5,892                     17.10%



December        $21,597   $21,510                   $86                          0.00%



January           $30,392   $33,657                   $3,264                     10.74%



February          $52,045   $49,365                   - $2,679   -               5.15%



March               $66,597   $80,880                   $14,282                   21.44%



April                  $81,641   $90,242                   $8,601                     10.53%