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 own a second home here and fit the category of a seasonal visitor or snowbird.
Those are some of the initial findings of an ongoing study of Pasco's tourism demographics compiled by the Tallahassee firm of Downs & St. Germain Research.
The firm's president, Joseph Germain, presented the quarterly results April 18 to the Tourist Development Council.
The year-long study is intended to compile a more definitive description of Pasco's tourism customers to help guide future marketing and advertising decisions. The initial data, compiled Jan. 1 to March 31, came from 477 personal interviews at hotels, public areas and events around the county.
Among the findings:
• Nearly three-quarters of the surveyed tourists came from one of six locations: Florida, Canada, New York, Michigan, Illinois or Georgia. Forty-six percent of the visitors were Floridians and 13 percent were from Canada.
• Hotels and motels were the top place for accommodations at 40 percent, followed by personal second home, 28 percent; family or friend's home, 16 percent; rented house or condominium, 8 percent; and campground or RV park, 6 percent.
• Visitors spent, on average, 14 nights in the county. Seventeen percent were first-time visitors, and 30 percent had visited at least 10 times. Ninety-seven percent said they would return, and those interviewed rated the county 9.5 out of 10 as a place to vacation. "You should be very proud of that,'' said St. Germain. "This number I don't see very often.''
• People said they came to Pasco to see an attraction, visit family or friends, relax and unwind, attend a special occasion or vacation. Day trippers from Florida typically spent $134 here, while vacation travel parties staying as many as 10 nights spent $318 daily.
• Long-term visitors, defined as those staying beyond 10 nights, spent $240 a day, but more than $19,000 for their entire trip. They were the wealthiest visitors, with an average annual income of more than $102,000, and 38 percent came from outside the U.S.
"The numbers are definitely promising,'' said Commissioner Mike Moore, the council's chairman. "I'm confident we'll continue to see an uptick in the county, especially with everything we've got doing on.''
Those activities include a 10-day scallop fishing season in July, the ongoing hockey, figure skating and other draws at the Florida Hospital Center Ice complex in Wesley Chapel and the planned construction of a nearly 100,000-square-foot indoor sports facility for basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and other competitions. Ground-breaking for the $44 million gymnasium and adjoining hotel project, located within the Wiregrass Ranch development in Wesley Chapel, is scheduled for June. When completed, the project also will include outdoor sports fields and an amphitheater.
That could help fill a niche. Half of those surveyed said they would participate in additional outdoor activities if they were offered, and the entertainment they'd like to see more of included music festivals and added restaurants.
The sampling, because it was the first quarter of the year, likely is heavily influenced by snowbirds, said St. Germain.
Still, the top location visited?
Holiday in southwest Pasco. Forty percent of the tourists said they visited there.
And the perceptions of Pasco, from the interviewed tourists, probably showed a personal bias. One of the comments from a person who described Pasco as "relaxing'' might even vex the Tourist Development Council.
The visitor called the county "nice, relaxing and not a lot of tourists.''
Reach C.T. Bowen at email@example.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2