Bed tax revenues in Franklin County are running 13 percent ahead of last year, according to the latest state collection figures released by the Tourist Development Council.
Following a lackluster spring, in which revenues were flat in March, April and May, the take from the 2 percent tax on transient rentals soared with the start of summer. June numbers bettered the 2015 numbers by 10 percent, and July totals were up by a whopping 39 percent over one year ago.
In fact, the June and July totals were the first time since the bed tax started a decade ago that back-to-back months each eclipsed the $200,000 mark. The only other time that a single month topped the $200,000 mark was in June 2014, when it exceeded $210,000.
The June 2016 total of nearly $214,000 was up about $19,000 from the year before, while July’s revenue of nearly $254,000 rose by a whopping $71,000 from the year prior.
“We’re very satisfied that our revenues are increasing at or above the state average,” said Curt Blair, TDC administrator. “Franklin County is not on the same budget playing field as some of the state’s bigger destination marketing groups but we’re holding our own just fine. I think it says a lot about our organic marketing efforts that target exactly the right audience for our area.”
The impressive June and July numbers followed a subdued three-month period. March’s total of about $80,000 was down 4 percent from the year before, and April’s take of about $103,000 was up just 2 percent from 2015, still not too shabby since this year and last have each seen April eclipsing the $100,000 mark for the first times.
May’s numbers of about $131,000 were down 9 percent over last year, a drop of about $12,000. The May numbers were below that of 2012, but still better than each of the years prior to that.
In addition to its continued funding of 28 nonprofit groups countywide, the TDC’s marketing plans for 2017 will include rolling out a new website, hosting a series of six Coastal Getaway contests, reinforced branding of the area as Florida’s Forgotten Coast, funding of some new techie-themed events including a Pokemon Go event on Nov. 3 and a geocache contest sometime next year.
The TDC also approved funding to market a month-long series of activities and events next April relating to the promotion and preservation of Apalachicola’s historic shotgun houses.
Beginning this fall, the TDC will provide enhanced marketing assistance to several nonprofit groups that promote the area’s brand elements through multiple day events held during the week.
“We hear from our lodging partners that we need to focus efforts on filling beds during the week,” said Blair. “Providing an incentive to groups to host weekday events will be one of our priorities this year.”
In addition to an increase in bed tax collections, the increase in Franklin County’s tourism numbers are reflected in visitor center check-ins, increase in website visits and an increase in database numbers of people signing up to receive information about the area.
According to Jean Lane, Eastpoint Visitor Center administrative staff, more than 1600 visitors checked into each of the four visitor centers in Apalachicola, Carrabelle, Eastpoint and St. George Island during September. Year to date so far, the number of people stopping in for information at the visitor centers has topped 20,000.
Traffic to the TDC’s website Saltyflorida.com also has increased, with an average of more than 21,000 visits each month. According to TDC vendor Tana Kendrick, owner of 2K WebGroup, hits to the website are strongest from people interested in places to stay, particularly those lodging providers that offer specials.
The increase is similar for the TDC’s email marketing campaign efforts. According to TDC vendor Cindy Clark, owner of Bay Media Services, the TDC’s newsletter database is growing at a rate of between 300 to 500 new signups each month. The newsletter of events and activities is distributed to more than 41,000 interested readers across the country each month, with an average of 40 links back to the TDC website of things to do, places to stay and events to attend.
“Overwhelmingly, people are attracted to the lodging specials and contests,” she said.