Tourism up despite difficult year
The weather might have gotten a little colder lately, but there’s one thing that’s still hot.
A report provided by John Solomon, director of the Tourist Development Council, Tuesday morning, indicated that after a sudden COVID-19 drop in the spring that wreaked havoc on the industry, the county’s tourist effort has roared back, with record-setting months in July, August and September to close out the 2019-20 fiscal year with a modest, but highly symbolic, increase of 2.17 percent over last year.
The 2 percent lodging ta brought in a record-setting $1.43 million, about $30,000 more than last year’s $1.4 million.
“Considering vacation rentals were closed for over two months this is a remarkable collection number for the year,” Solomon told county commissioners.
Each of the last three months set records for collection, with July at just over $243,000, a hike of better than 21 percent over the year before.
In August, the increase was almost $56,000, brining the total to better than $190,000, nearly a 42 percent boost.
But it was September that put the last giant candle on the cake, as collections saw a nearly 56 percent increase from the prior year. In fact this September record totaled more than $140,000, and was double the roughly $70,000 brought in for that month just two years ago.
Solomon said the increase was in part due to the TDC’s decision to focus on expanding tourism during the off-season, which begins when school goes back in session.
He shared occupancy statistics that showed tourists to the county stay longer, as the average length of stay was 8.7 days, two days better than the state as a whole and nearly three days better than the whole of Northwest Florida.
In paid occupancy for the year, Franklin County increased in 2020 to 62.2 percent versus 59.1 percent in 2019, while both Florida and Northwest Florida had decreases. Florida had a 42.7 percent occupancy and Northwest Florida had a 48 percent occupancy for 2020.
Solomon also shared word of the county’s Visit Florida Flagler Awards, an annual statewide competition recognizing outstanding Florida tourism marketing.
The program was created by VISIT FLORIDA to honor those individuals and organizations that help position Florida as the top travel destination in the world.
The Franklin County TDC won three Flagler Awards for the 2019-20 year – a Silver for Direct Marketing through its “Open for the Businesses of Peace & Quiet Villages Invitation” campaign; a Bronze for Resource /Promotional Materials Consumer for its Franklin County Visitor Guide; and a Bronze for Television Advertising for its Discover the Forgotten Coast TV Show.
The TDC also assisted Play Hard Florida in the production of the “Explore the Forgotten Coast” video which won the top award, a Henry, for Rural County Marketing.
“I would like to express how proud I am of all of the TDC for their efforts in marketing Franklin County,” Solomon said. “These awards do not come easily and the level of competition is the best the state has to offer.”