During the first two months of the summer, revenues collected by the Tourist Development Council dipped about 11 percent over the year before, but TDC officials are confident that revenue for the entre 2011-12 fiscal year that just ended should see an increase.
A look at newly-released numbers for June and July show the county’s collections of the 2 percent bed tax dropped by 16.4 percent in June, from $172,029 in 2011 to $143,805 in 2012.
Numbers for July showed a 5.3 percent decline, from $147,874 in 2011 to about $140,000 in 2012.
But overall, collections for the fiscal year, as of July 31, were running about 10.5 percent ahead of the same time last year, when the county posted a record $803,141 in bed tax monies.
Paul Parker, a member of the TDC for the past seven years, nearly since it was formed, said the drop in June and July numbers was not a cause for concern.
“It’s completely the timing of the collections,” he said, noting that monthly numbers do not account for the latitude the state exercises in how it receives payments from the overnight accommodations industry, and when it posts them.
Parker, who owns Harbor Point Vacation Rentals in Alligator Point, pointed out that May 2012 numbers were up nearly 55 percent from the year before, a bulge likely attributable to when collections were posted.
“It’s just been phenomenal year,” he said. “Wait and see what it is for the calendar year.”
Parker said that based on his personal experience, and after talking with the vacation rental companies that serve St. George Island, which remit the bulk of the bed tax money to the county, he is convinced the county is seeing a record volume of visitors.
“We expect to have at least as good a year or better than past year,” he said. “I think we’re on track to do 10 percent better.”
He said ”Right now your rentals are mostly full in October,” and that he did not think that the effect of Tropical Storm Debby at the beginning of the summer was longstanding.
“It was nothing like a season-changing event,” he said. “Overall the season was really good.”
Also, some vacation rental companies will be able to recapture lost revenue when travel insurance claims are paid out as a result of the missed rental days, Parker said.
He noted that in calendar year 2011, the county’s bed tax collection totaled more than $824,000, nearly $175,000 more than when the tax was instituted in 2005.
This, he said, means that the tourist industry generated about $41 million in direct revenue alone. “That’s a sizeable industry, and that’s just the accommodations revenue. That doesn’t count all the other things our guests are spending money on, like restaurants and trips with guides and much more,” Parker said. “That’s what I’m amazed at, at how much revenue the industry is generating for the county.”