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  1. Pasco

How much is tourism worth? More than $600 million in Pasco, study says.

Pasco County's tourism industry provided a $615 million impact to the local economy including $436 million in direct spending from the 965,000 people who visited last year.
Published Feb. 26

NEW PORT RICHEY — Florida's Sports Coast now knows the numbers it has to beat.

Pasco County's tourism industry provided a $615 million impact to the local economy, including $436 million in direct spending from the 965,000 people who visited Pasco in 2018.

The numbers are contained in a year-long study of Pasco tourism by Downs & St. Germain Research of Tallahassee. The firm's president, Joseph St. Germain, briefed the Tourist Development Council on the findings during a Feb. 20 meeting.

The data provides a benchmark in advance of the county officially rebranding its tourism promotions as Florida's Sports Coast. That is scheduled to kick off March 7 at a ceremony at Tampa International Airport.

Among other findings in the research report:

• Visitors accounted for more than 1.1 million hotel nights. The tourists' direct spending included nearly $65 million for accommodations, $109 million for entertainment and $96 million each for shopping and eating in restaurants.

• The $57.5 million in sales and property taxes generated by the tourism industry saves each Pasco County household $294 in annual taxes, providing an answer to the commonly asked question, "What does tourism do for me as a Pasco resident?'' said St. Germain

• The visitors create nearly 7,500 jobs, primarily in the hospitality industry staples of hotels and restaurants, generating more than $156 million in wages. Not included in the report is that Saddlebrook Resort is one of the top 15 largest employers in Pasco County, with a workforce of 517 people, according to the Pasco Economic Development Council.

• The 2018 tourists included 496,000 people who paid for overnight accommodations, nearly 333,000 who came for the day and more than 132,000 who stayed with friends and relatives.

"Friends and family are an important attractor for Pasco County,'' said St. Germain, since they provide tourists with a reason to make an introductory visit to the county.

Better yet, 98 percent of those surveyed said they would return to Pasco County.

The study also built a visitor profile to help guide future tourism marketing. It is based on more than 2,300 in-person surveys at hotels, events and in public areas during 2018.

It found that 91 percent of visitors traveled by car, spent on average six nights in Pasco, and listed visiting friends and family as their top reason for coming. Daily spending included $149 for day-trippers, $332 for vacationers staying 10 nights or less and $230 for long-term visitors staying 11 days or longer.

Typical day-trippers were 40 years old, with a median household income of $74,900, and more than half came from the Tampa, St. Petersburg or Clearwater areas. Vacationers were slightly older and had about the same income level. Long-term visitors were older (54) and wealthier, with household incomes of $92,600.

The typical traveling party was 2.4 people, but less than a quarter of the travel groups included a child. That is expected to change with the Florida's Sports Coast brand and the county's $44 investment in a nearly 100,000-square-foot indoor sports complex and adjoining hotel in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel.

"My assumption is we'll see that number (of families with children) go way up,'' said Commissioner Mike Moore, chairman of the Tourist Development Council.

The study also found that 58 percent of Pasco's visitors are from the Southeast, and just 6 percent were from outside the U.S.

"I was surprised how low that number was,'' Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez said about the foreign visitors.

It's one of the reasons the Florida's Sports Coast kick-off is scheduled for Tampa International Airport, to unveil the advertising aimed at attracting incoming passengers to visit Pasco. The ceremony also includes the planned announcement of a partnership agreement with Big Storm Brewing, which is producing a new Sports Coast beer as part of the marketing effort.

The Florida's Sports Coast brand, first revealed in October and approved by county commissioners in November, is intended to capitalize on Pasco's sports facilities, outdoor adventure offerings and water activities along the coast. The Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee is leading the rebranding as part of a $326,000 contract with the county.

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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