Make us your home page

Tourism numbers continue upward climb in Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — In its quest to become a more attractive destination for overnight visitors, Hernando County appears to be off to a strong start in 2014.

Figures from the county's Tourism Development Council show that the county collected $184,412 in bed tax revenue from December through March, a 5.1 percent increase from the same period last year and 50 percent higher than the same period in 2012.

Although it's a small snapshot from a much larger picture, county tourism director Tammy Heon said the numbers are consistent with statewide trends and show that a steadily improving economy and rising consumer confidence are providing people with more cash to take vacations.

According to Heon, hotel occupancy rates in Hernando were at or close to 100 percent during many weekends from January through March, thanks to strong attendance at such events as the Florida Gulf Coast Clusters dog shows, the Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, and Art in the Park, all of which draw out-of-town visitors. And while final attendance figures haven't been released, early indications are that the Florida Blueberry Festival drew a record crowd in April, with Hernando hoteliers recording 371 room stays during that weekend.

Vinnie Sookhoo, manager of the Days Inn near Interstate 75, said that his hotel has remained busy since the start of the year.

"Our numbers have been way up, and it's been good to see," Sookhoo said. "There were a lot of people who said they enjoy this area very much."

Heon said the county's ramped-up efforts to market itself as a tourist destination have paid off. Visitors who stop by her office near the interstate or at the bureau's westside location at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park often say they are surprised by what the county has to offer.

"We're quite a find to people whose idea of Florida revolves around theme parks and beaches," Heon said. "We offer a lot of activities that perhaps they've never experienced."

Until a few years ago, Hernando's reputation as a tourist draw pretty much rested on luring travelers to aging attractions such as Weeki Wachee Springs or Rogers' Christmas House Village in Brooksville. However, enhanced marketing efforts, using both mainstream media and social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, are attracting visitors interested in outdoor activities such as golf, fishing, wildlife viewing, biking and kayaking, according to Heon.

As a result, the county's tourism tax receipts have risen steadily the past few years. Last year, the county earned $370,138 in bed taxes, up more than $40,000 from the year before. Overall, tourist-tax revenue has risen more than 18 percent since 2010.

Heon said that in a still-fragile economy, Hernando County seems like a bargain for budget-conscious families looking to squeeze the most out of every dollar.

"They're relieved when they realize they don't have to spend $100 a day at a theme park to have fun," she said. "We're a nice, reasonably priced alterative."

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

Tourism numbers continue upward climb in Hernando 04/30/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride


    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
  2. Would you let your company implant a chip in you?

    Working Life

    Would you ask an employee to get a chip implanted in her hand? Sounds invasive and intrusive. But come Aug. 1, one company in Wisconsin will be giving it a try.

    Three Square Market - a developer of software used in vending machines - is offering all of its employees the option to get a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger. [Photo from video]
  3. Daniel Lipton resigns as artistic director of Opera Tampa


    TAMPA — Daniel Lipton has resigned as artistic director of Opera Tampa, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts announced.

    Daniel Lipton became the artistic director and conductor of Opera Tampa in 2012. Lipton replaced the opera's only previous director, Anton Coppola, who retired. [Times file (2012)]
  4. Throwback Tampa Bay station 102.9 goes from R&B jams to WFLA-AM's conservative talk


    Talk radio station WFLA-AM (970) began simulcasting on 102.9 FM in the Tampa area this morning. 

    Tampa's 102.9 is going from Throwback Tampa Bay to WFLA-AM's news radio.
  5. Bank of Tampa expanding into Sarasota


    TAMPA — The Bank of Tampa is expanding to Sarasota County. It opened a loan office this month in downtown Sarasota at 1858 Ringling Blvd., which will be converted to a full-service branch within the year, the company said in a release Monday.

    The Bank of Tampa is expanding to Sarasota. Charles Murphy, pictured, will lead the Sarasota branch. | [Courtesy of The Bank of Tampa]