Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

RNC propels Hillsborough, Pinellas to record bed tax collections

The last week of August is usually a slow one for local hoteliers. This year, thanks to the Republican National Convention, there was nothing slow or usual about it.

The more than 50,000 delegates, visitors and journalists who descended on Tampa Bay for the RNC generated record bed tax revenue in August for both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, according to figures released by both tax collectors.

Travel industry analysts already declared the RNC a success for bay area hoteliers, who enjoyed record room and occupancy rates during the convention, held Aug. 27 to Sept. 1 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa.

But the bed tax — a 5 percent surcharge tacked onto every hotel bill — is the most concrete measure so far of the RNC's economic impact, said David Downing, deputy director of Pinellas' tourism agency, Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

"We have a lot of metrics in this industry," Downing said. "But this is where the rubber meets the road."

It was already a record-setting year for Pinellas County bed tax collections before the RNC. But the convention propelled Pinellas to another record month, collecting $2.2 million in bed tax revenue in August. That's 22 percent more than the same time period last year, making it the best August on record.

That record August propelled total bed tax collections for this fiscal year (October 2011 to September 2012) up to a record $27.1 million, a $1.5 million increase from the year before. August's bed tax numbers are the most current figures available.

That makes 2012 the most prosperous bed tax year in county history, besting 2008's revenue record of $26.4 million — and there's still a month left to be counted this fiscal year.

Hillsborough's hotels enjoyed a similar RNC boost in August, generating $2 million in bed tax revenue. That's a 25 percent jump from August 2011.

It also puts Hillsborough on track to collect the most bed tax revenue in five years. August's figures bring total 2012 bed tax collections up to $21 million with one month left in the fiscal year.

The convention's timing boosted local hotels at just the right time, said Doug McClain, vice president of marketing and communications for Hillsborough's tourism agency, Tampa Bay and Company.

"It's filling a period that is typically slow for us," McClain said. "That's what was so fantastic about this — to go into a month that might be our slowest and just fill it with record demand."

Said Downing: "It didn't displace any business we might have had. It was a pure win."

McClain said his agency is using the RNC to showcase Tampa to meeting planners, hoping to reignite the area's moribund convention business. According to Smith Travel Research Inc., groups made 46 percent of hotel bookings in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market in 2006.

Then the recession hit. By June 2012, group bookings fell to 33.5 percent in Tampa-St. Petersburg. The rest of the bookings were made by families and small groups, a market segment that spends less money.

"We're showing off how we did with the RNC to help book future conventions," McClain said. "We're using it as a case study of how we can pull off a convention of that complexity."

There is hope on both sides of the bay that record bed tax years in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties mean the tourism industry is finally emerging from the downturn.

"Our thinking is," Downing said, "this is what recovery looks like."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404.

Comments
St. Pete Pier public arts committee to meet with finalists, make decision

St. Pete Pier public arts committee to meet with finalists, make decision

ST. PETERSBURG — The pier public arts committee is expected to decide today which artist or artists will have their work showcased in the new 26-acre Pier District. The committee, which selected six finalists with the help of consultant Ann Wykell, w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

NEW PORT RICHEY – Hockey pucks could replace lacrosse balls as the required sports equipment for the holiday tourism season in Wesley Chapel.The Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, founded by Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, is seek...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Disney World hiring 3,500, offers signing bonuses up to $5,000

Disney World hiring 3,500, offers signing bonuses up to $5,000

ORLANDO — In an ever-tightening job market, Disney World is doubling its hiring bonuses for some summer jobs, even for unskilled or part-time positions — as it seeks to hire for 3,500 positions.A housekeeper hired this year at Disney World’s resorts ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

NEW PORT RICHEY – The typical tourist in Pasco County this year most likely is a Floridian.But there are lots of Canadians here as well. Nearly 80 percent drove, rather than flew, to the region. Forty percent stayed in hotels, but more than a quarter...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Amazon will now deliver to certain cars across Tampa Bay

Amazon will now deliver to certain cars across Tampa Bay

SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon latest perk ... free delivery to your car. The Seattle company said Tuesday that it has begun delivering packages in 37 cities — including Tampa and St. Petersburg — to Prime members who own newer General Motors or Volvo vehicl...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hernando Chamber boosts small business with videos

Hernando Chamber boosts small business with videos

SPRING HILL — Jaden Trotter claims he was basically shy. When a new sandwich shop opened a year and a half ago, he applied for work as a delivery driver, a job not requiring a lot of people skills.But Ryan Noruzi, owner of the local Jimmy Johns franc...
Published: 04/24/18
Armed Forces History Museum collection has a new home, but new owner is a mystery

Armed Forces History Museum collection has a new home, but new owner is a mystery

LARGO — The contents of the Armed Forces History Museum have been sold, but no one is ready to talk about the future of the collection of military memorabilia.A collector named John Piazza used his personal collection to start the public museum, whic...
Published: 04/24/18
Big visitor calls at Port Tampa Bay

Big visitor calls at Port Tampa Bay

TAMPA — The 750-foot-long Ireland, one of the biggest cargo vessels ever to call at Port Tampa Bay, arrived Sunday.The Ireland is on its inaugural voyage, having left a shipyard in China for a stop in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula to pick up 64,865 shor...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Work starting on JW Marriott, but Water Street Tampa expects to have 10 buildings under way within a year

Work starting on JW Marriott, but Water Street Tampa expects to have 10 buildings under way within a year

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa marks the start of construction Tuesday on its first building, the posh JW Marriott hotel, but there’s a lot more to come.And soon.Within a year, developers said Monday, construction should be underway on 10 — 10! — of Wate...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sears in Clearwater’s Countryside Mall to close in mid-July

Sears in Clearwater’s Countryside Mall to close in mid-July

CLEARWATER — The Westfield Countryside Mall Sears will close in mid-July as part of Sears Holdings’ latest store cuts, bringing the number of shuttering Kmarts and Sears to nearly 200.The store’s liquidation sale will begin on Friday, according to Se...
Published: 04/23/18