Make us your home page

Pinellas County tourism industry sees growth potential ahead

After weathering its weakest winter in years, Pinellas County's tourist industry is seeing some positive signs that recovery will take root this fall.

"We're at the bottom," said Walter Klages, president of Research Data Services Inc., a Tampa firm that for 25 years has maintained a predictive economic model of the county's tourist industry. "It's going to ratchet up a bit at a time, but the confidence is rising, migration into Florida is starting to come back, and the declines are getting smaller."

Klages' forecast got a warm reception Wednesday from the Pinellas Tourist Development Council, which manages the St. Petersburg Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In the quarter ended March 31, the number of overnight visitors dropped 6 percent to 1.2 million, and average daily hotel rates fell 11 percent to $129. With travel into Tampa International Airport down 12 percent, the rest of the bay area shared a dismal winter. Preliminary figures show April tourism was not much better. But Pinellas fared better than the Keys, Naples, Miami and Palm Beach, which had to discount deeper because of a falloff in business meeting and conference attendance.

"We were off, but we held our own," said Russ Kimball, general manager of the Sheraton Sand Key Resort.

The upcoming summer promises to be even more price-driven. Convinced there is pent-up family vacation demand once school ends, theme park marketers promise to turn up the advertising to those within a day's drive. St. Petersburg-Clearwater will unleash a $1 million summer campaign that includes 10 signboard trucks driving around Orlando, 26 billboards in Central Florida, and radio, TV and print ads. Some hotel chains and travel Web sites are e-mailing weekend rate cut updates daily.

"Decisionmaking is spur of the moment," Klages said.

Lower visitation will cut the bureau's spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, because hotel tax collections that finance the effort have fallen.

This year's total budget of $31 million is expected to drop to $25 million. The tax is split three ways to pay for tourist promotion, beach renourishment and to pay off Tropicana Field and spring training stadium construction debts.

The council approved a $12.5 million tourist promotion budget that envisions reduced spending in most all categories. Ad spending will drop about $900,000 to $7.6 million, but cuts include laying off two of 36 bureau staffers, attending fewer trade shows, wiping out $600,000 divvied up among several small events and slicing to $600,000 what has been $1 million split among six large events, including the St. Petersburg Grand Prix and the Transitions Championship PGA tournament.

Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8252.

Pinellas County tourism industry sees growth potential ahead 05/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 9:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]