Saturday, November 18, 2017
Business

Bed tax records keep falling as Pinellas focuses on tourism

RECOMMENDED READING


Pinellas County's sugar-sand beaches have never been so popular — or so lucrative.

The county's unprecedented tourism boom has resulted in another bed tax record: Pinellas collected $31 million in fiscal year 2013, according to the county's tax collector office.

The tax is a 5 percent surcharge tacked onto the bill of every accommodation rented for less than six months. It funds tourism marketing, beach restoration and other projects. The $31 million is an 8 percent increase from the $28.7 million collected in fiscal year 2012.

"If you look at some of the other destinations around the state, they're not having this kind of year," said Pinellas tourism chief D.T. Minich. "Everyone is up, but not to this extent."

The 2012 record was set thanks to the Republican National Convention, a historic event that attracted tens of thousands to the bay area — and Pinellas' beach hotels.

So how did Pinellas County set a new record in 2013 without having an RNC-sized event to boost the numbers?

"I think we're being extremely aggressive in our marketing," Minich said, "and we're being very, very targeted in our marketing."

Minich, the executive director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, said new online tools have given the county's tourism agency the ability to target those most likely to visit the Pinellas beaches.

That also has changed how the agency spends its $12 million advertising budget.

"The stuff we're doing online has really, really changed considerably," Minich said. "Five years ago, 27 percent of our media budget was print. Now only 9 percent of our media budget is print. We're shifting the funds to more targeted advertising with the Internet."

That's how Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has been able to focus on certain ZIP codes in New York and Chicago to boost Pinellas' No. 1 and No. 3 feeder markets, respectively. That's also how the agency has drilled down its marketing efforts to specific demographics: families and couples, average age around 40, minimum household incomes of about $80,000.

"We're not doing a shotgun approach anymore," Minich said. "It's targeted to household income. It's targeted to our demographic profile. It's targeted to our geographic profile."

Minich thinks Pinellas can keep the momentum going. Copa Airlines will start flying from Panama City, Panama, to Tampa International Airport four days a week starting Dec. 16. It will be Tampa Bay's first direct flight to a major Latin American hub. To grow the Latin American tourism market, last week the agency hired its first director of Latin American sales, Ana Fernandez.

The success of Pinellas tourism also could result in even more tourist tax revenue. Under state law, if the county hits $600 million in taxable sales in calendar year 2013 — which tourism officials say they are on track to do — Pinellas could join Broward, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, and Walton as the state's "high tourism impact" counties.

That designation would let Pinellas raise the bed tax to 6 percent, adding millions to tourist tax coffers. But that would require a vote of the Pinellas County Commission.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at (813) 226-3404, [email protected] or @jthalji on Twitter.

Comments

Search suspended for missing Cortez boater who left from Egmont Key

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for a missing 63-year-old boater on Sunday evening, two days after he and his dog were reported missing five miles northwest of Mead Point, just inland from Anna Maria Island.On Friday, Fraser Horne of Cortez...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Parents, children welcome downsized MOSI in Tampa

Parents, children welcome downsized MOSI in Tampa

TAMPA — Avery, 6, slid his sneakers up the side of 200-pound rubber tire from the space shuttle Columbia and sat on top.His father, Ilder Jeannot, called for him to get off of it — usually climbing on museum displays is frowned upon. But in the new M...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sunday Conversation: Tona Bell invites customers to enjoy a ‘digital detox’

Sunday Conversation: Tona Bell invites customers to enjoy a ‘digital detox’

Like so many small businesses, Saturday will represent a special day for Paper Seahorse owner Tona Bell. Bell’s cozy bungalow business at 211 S Howard features paper and stationery, specialty pens, vintage typewriters and crafts classes. It will offe...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September. According to state figures released Friday...
Published: 11/17/17
Apple will postpone release of  HomePod

Apple will postpone release of HomePod

The Washington PostApple said Friday that it’s pushing back its plans for a Siri-powered smart speaker until sometime early next year.The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart s...
Published: 11/17/17
HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

ST. PETERSBURG — Good Housekeeping and St. Petersburg-based HSN have chosen five finalists for their entrepreneur competition. The partners are searching for a novel item to promote as endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, denoting reliability and ...
Published: 11/17/17
Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

How are we doing?That was the Big Question posed more than once this past week in Tampa Bay. First, the Tampa Bay Partnership and USF debuted in-depth and new ways to measure Tampa Bay across a wide range of indicators to gauge whether we are gaining...
Published: 11/17/17
Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

The main course was expected: a pair of sleek silver Tesla semi-trucks that get 500 miles per charge, go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds and — if the hype is to be believed — promise to single-handedly transform the commercial trucking industry.B...
Published: 11/17/17
We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?The Tampa Bay Times reached out to these leading area entrepreneurs and startup experts for answers.RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? D...
Published: 11/17/17
Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Plotting a shopping strategy for the holiday weekend? Here’s a look at holiday store opening hours for some major retailers:Thanksgiving8 a.m.: Kmart1 p.m.: JCPenney4 p.m.: GameStop5 p.m.: Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, Kohl’s6 p.m.: Old Navy, Target...
Published: 11/17/17