Make us your home page
Instagram

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 albright@sptimes.com 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

Loading...
  1. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  2. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary

    Banking

    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]