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Tampa Bay among top tourism destinations in the country

Beaches, of course, remain a large draw to tourists. Pinellas County charges an average room rate of $136.20 per night.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Beaches, of course, remain a large draw to tourists. Pinellas County charges an average room rate of $136.20 per night.

Tampa Bay has seen some of the biggest gains in tourism compared to other destinations across the country.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater hotel market is among the top in the nation, according to Smith Travel Research, which said the bay area saw the largest increase in hotel occupancy rates last year. The region also had the biggest bump in revenues per room.

STR Inc. research shows that of the top 25 tourism markets, Tampa Bay, which includes destinations in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, saw a 5.6 percent increase in occupancy to nearly 72 percent, and a 13.6 percent increase in revenue per room.

Hillsborough County competes against other tourism destinations for both leisure and convention business. Hillsborough ranked third for average daily room rate for the year at $107.95, up 8.1 percent compared to last year. Tampa was behind Nashville and Long Beach, Calif., in the rankings. In comparison, the average daily room rate in Pinellas County is $136.20 for the year.

"Tampa and Hillsborough County continue to perform at the top of our game as a tourism destination," Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, said in a statement. "Visit Tampa Bay's sales and marketing staffs work diligently with our partners to bring both convention and leisure travelers to experience all the treasures of Tampa Bay. So it's especially rewarding for us to finish 2015 at the top of our group of strong competitors."

The Tampa Bay area competes for business with Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, but also Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth in Texas, and Baltimore, Md., Milwaukee, Wis., and Charlotte, N.C.

Hillsborough County collects a 5 percent levy on hotel short-term hotel stays, also called the bed tax.

In December, the county collected just over $2 million in bed taxes for the month, up 6.7 percent over last year. Hillsborough County collected just under $6.1 million in bed taxes for the first quarter of fiscal year 2016, according to a news release, up from the $5.2 million collected during the same quarter last year.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] Follow @SunBizGriffin.

Tampa Bay among top tourism destinations in the country 02/08/16 [Last modified: Monday, February 8, 2016 8:16pm]
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