This will be a historic election year. Despite the partisan politics, there should be one issue on which we all can agree: We need to get America moving and traveling again.
For millions of Americans, a trip to Florida still represents a long-standing tradition — whether it's for spring break, a theme park or a sporting event, visitors from around the world choose the Sunshine State to celebrate their special occasions.
Pasco County will join the celebration and honor National Travel and Tourism Week now through May 13. Travel and tourism is one of America's largest industries, and it's Florida's No. 1 industry. In 2011, the tourism-related spending in Florida contributed $67.3 billion while collecting more than $4 billion in total sales tax revenue. Without travel and tourism's contribution to the tax base, each household could owe up to an additional $1,000 per year in taxes.
How do those numbers relate to Pasco County? More travel means more sales tax is pumped into our local businesses. The sales and tourist tax revenues contribute to a healthier Pasco. I'm proud to report the county's tourism revenues have been growing since 2009, and this year revenue is up nearly 17 percent.
The tourist tax is collected from overnight accommodations. Visitors also eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores and buy gas at our stations. They rent cars, buy groceries and visit local attractions like the Giraffe Ranch and Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City.
The county's Tourist Development Plan 2010-2014 still focuses on creating a tourist experience based on promoting our natural attractions, cultural programs and creating new sports business. Pasco County is a premier sports and travel destination thanks to the number of sports tournaments, special events, outdoor recreation, ecotourism and cultural activities. "It's Only Natural" has been our brand for decades. But sports, art, festivals and culture are our nature as well.
The efforts of the Tourist Development Council and the Office of Tourism Development, to promote Pasco County as a sports destination are paying off, with major events such as the Dick's Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions lacrosse tournament staying in Pasco County. The lacrosse events alone hosted by our parks and recreation department, Wesley Chapel Athletic Association and the School Board contribute an estimated economic impact of more than $4 million. That is why the County Commission is partnering with Wiregrass Sports to construct a multipurpose sports facility in Wesley Chapel. This proposed 21-field facility will become a destination for families who continue to participate in sports tourism even through a moderate economy.
Help us celebrate National Tourism Week by discovering the exciting adventures Pasco County has to offer. It's great practice for the Republican National Convention's arrival in the Tampa Bay area at the end of August. With approximately 13,000 to 15,000 members of the media in attendance, the political convention is the single largest media event in the world except for the Olympic Games. Visitors from across the U.S. will visit our home. Let's welcome them and hope they return with another visit in the future, and maybe they'll bring Pasco County an opportunity by moving their business to Pasco!
So invite your friends and family from other parts of the state or country to promote Pasco County. As our state partner Visit Florida says, "Share a Little Sunshine."
Be sure to support Pasco County tourism — by encouraging your friends, family and business associates to stay overnight in one of our hotels, motels or campgrounds.
For more information on Pasco County tourism, visit visitpasco.net and join us on Facebook at Visit Pasco County Tourism.
Ann Hildebrand is chairwoman of the Pasco Board of County Commissioners and the Tourist Development Council.