TAMPA —At least one measure of the Republican National Convention's impact on Tampa Bay is in the billions.
Add up all the advertising and media pitches — along with media exposure around the world — and the total "media impressions" about Tampa Bay connected to the weeklong August convention add up to 9.6 billion.
That's according to a wrapup that convention and tourism agency Tampa Bay & Co. released during its annual luncheon Wednesday. The meeting at A La Carte Event Pavilion was ostensibly to showcase all the year's events and talk about 2013, but the post-RNC enthusiasm overshadowed all else.
No longer will the word "Florida" have to be added when others around the country talk about Tampa or Tampa Bay anymore, Tampa Bay & Co. president and CEO Kelly Miller told the gathering of nearly 600.
"It'll be a stand-alone top 20 (metro area) for the rest of our lifetimes," he said. "I think we're all on a real high right now."
Though he was losing his voice, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn didn't want to lose the opportunity to celebrate the moment. "We were dancing on this international stage like we've never danced before," he said, his voice cracking. "Tampa Bay's got its swagger back."
Tourism and economic development groups use media impressions — the number of times someone has seen, heard or read a certain reference — to gauge how much people get acclimated with a potential place for a business venture, vacation or relocation.
Doug McClain, the tourism agency's vice president of marketing and communications, said there is no breakdown of how many of the billions of media mentions were negative versus positive. The threat of Hurricane Isaac disrupting the convention helped boost Tampa and Tampa Bay references in national media.
As part of its outreach during the RNC, Tampa Bay & Co. set up a social media command center to push out positive messages about the region to visitors and viewers via Twitter and other social media. In its report, Tampa Bay & Co. said its command center monitored 382,371 Twitter conversations relevant to Tampa or the RNC.
Its involvement in social media, proactive pitching and overall media exposure wound up giving 492 million impressions about the area, according to the agency. For context, consider that social media efforts during February's Super Bowl in Indianapolis garnered an estimated 64 million impressions, organizers said at the time.
The 50,000-plus delegates, visitors and journalists who came to town generated record bed tax revenue in August for both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Occupancy rates in Hillsborough peaked on Tuesday of RNC week at a high of nearly 92 percent of rooms filled, up 60 percent from a year ago. Room revenues that Sunday were up a stunning 526 percent from a year ago in what is typically a slow seasonal month.
"We've never seen numbers like that. Ever," McClain said. Shy of landing another political convention or the Olympics, he added, "Those are numbers you'll never see again."
Jeff Harrington can be reached at (727) 893-8242 or [email protected]