Make us your home page

All signs point to a booming summer for Pinellas beaches

The TradeWinds Island Grand Resort reports that nearly all of its 796 rooms have been booked in June and July.

Times (2011)

The TradeWinds Island Grand Resort reports that nearly all of its 796 rooms have been booked in June and July.

The forecast for the Pinellas beaches this summer:


Pinellas County is in the midst of a third consecutive year of record tourism numbers, and there's no sign that might let up this summer. The county's tourism agency, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, reports a massive amount of digital interest in the Pinellas beaches as a summer destination.

"Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram," said David Downing, the agency's deputy director. "They're giving us a lot of metrics and these metrics can really help give you an idea of where people are coming from and who is coming."

Just look at the phenomenal growth of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater's YouTube channel: There were 1.1 million hits in the first part of 2014. That's compared to the five years it took to get to get to 1.1 million YouTube hits. The agency's Twitter followers are up about 200 percent compared to last year, Downing said.

Old-fashioned websites are blowing up, too. There were 1.6 million hits to the county's tourism websites from January to May. That's an increase of 108 percent, or more than double the number of tourism-related Web hits over the same period last year.

The best part of those numbers, Downing said: Fifty-eight percent are new visitors to Pinellas' tourism websites.

Then there's old-fashioned media. Requests for copies of Gulf to Bay Magazine, the tourism magazine Pinellas produces with the Tampa Bay Times, are up 60 percent this year.

"That's someone going to the website, entering their name and their snail-mail address," Downing said. "You have to have a pretty good reason to do that."

Another sign of a blockbuster summer: For the first time the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area made's annual list of its top 10 beach destinations. That list is based on the number of Pinellas hotel bookings made through Priceline from June 1 to Aug. 31.

"These are people who have actually given their credit card and are booking that destination for the summer," said Priceline travel editor Brian Ek.

"St. Pete-Clearwater is a destination that typically pops up on our spring break lists quite frequently," Ek said. "But for the summer, this is the first time we've seen it rank so highly among beach destinations."

But the most concrete number indicating the strength of Pinellas tourism this summer may be $3.9 million. That's how much tourist development tax the county collected in April — a 22 percent jump from the same month last year and the biggest April in county history.

And a strong April typically leads to a strong May, June and July.

"The very end of April was strong, and that should lead into May," Downing said. "We also have anecdotal evidence of that strength. We've heard from a lot of hotels that this summer is looking really strong."

The TradeWinds Island Grand Resort reported that 97 percent of its 796 rooms have already been booked through June and 98 percent have been booked through July.

"I don't know the last time we had that high of an occupancy," said Keith Overton, president of the St. Pete Beach resort.

All of those tourists won't have far to go to flock to the Pinellas beaches. In the summer, the county aims its tourism marketing efforts at the "drive market" — anyone close enough to drive to the beaches. That includes the Tampa Bay area, the Orlando and Central Florida region, and everything south of Atlanta.

The new Copa Airlines flights from Panama to Tampa International Airport gave the bay area its first direct connection to Latin American tourism. And last week, Pinellas launched its new tourism marketing campaign, "Live Amplified," to attract more of the younger, diverse demographic of tourists that have started visiting the beaches.

"We have research that shows we are appealing to a wider audience," Downing said, "and our metrics suggest that audience is growing younger."

It's not just the summer, though. The 2014 Pinellas tourism season already looks like another record breaker. The county has collected $21.2 million in tourist bed tax dollars in the first seven months of the fiscal year.

That's 12 percent ahead of last year's record bed tax collections.

"We're having a record year," Downing said, "on top of our record year last year."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at or (813) 226-3404. Follow him on Twitter @jthalji.

All signs point to a booming summer for Pinellas beaches 06/04/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 10:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump


    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  2. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Rick Scott signs package of tax breaks

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott signed a tax cut package Thursday that — while vastly scaled back from what he wanted — eliminates the so-called "tampon tax" and offers tax holidays for back-to-school shoppers and Floridians preparing for hurricane season.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a tax cut package that will cost state coffers $91.6 million during the upcoming year. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  4. FBI probes fraudster's alleged church scam following Tampa Bay Times report

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Once again, the FBI is investigating felon fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    The FBI is investigating convicted mortgage fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao on new allegations following a Tampa Bay Times report.
[TImes file photo]

  5. Tampa Bay is ground-zero for assignment of benefits cases over broken auto glass


    When Rachel Thorpe tried to renew her auto insurance last year for her Toyta RAV4, she was stunned to see her monthly premium had nearly doubled to $600. The Sarasota driver was baffled since her only recent claim was over a broken windshield.

    Auto glass lawsuits filed by a third party (through what's known as assignment of benefits) are skyrocketing in Tampa Bay.
[Times file photo]