If bed tax revenues and visitor center traffic numbers are any indication, Franklin County tourism is on track to exceed all expectations this year, surpassing last year’s revenues by 18% percent so far.
“In the wake of all the Hurricane Michael destruction to our region, I am so pleased that our lodging and tourism businesses seem to be rebounding,” said John Solomon, Executive Director of the Franklin County Tourist Development Council.
Solomon released the most recent bed tax revenue numbers during the August 20 Franklin County Commission meeting. According to the revenue report, Franklin County revenues totaled $166,129 – up $26,000 over May of 2018. In fact, May numbers exceed the highest collections ever recorded for May bed tax revenues in Franklin County by $22,000.
Paralleling the positive revenue numbers, visitor traffic to each of the County’s four visitor centers has also increased during 2019. According to July tracking numbers, the centers welcomed 4,288 visitors to the centers located in Apalachicola, St. George Island, Eastpoint and St. George Island. So far this year, nearly 26,000 visitors have visited the centers compared to a total count in 2018 of 31,398.
“We are on track to far exceed last year in terms of revenue, visitor center traffic and website metrics,” said Solomon.
Solomon attributes a significant portion of the increase to post-hurricane marketing efforts funded by Visit Florida. According to Solomon, the TDC received $174,000 in Visit Florida marketing assistance earlier this year to help get the word out that Franklin County was open for business following last fall’s Hurricane Michael. Through its contract vendors, Solomon and the TDC board launched a multi-media campaign that included digital, print, web, television and direct mail to reach a targeted demographic of potential visitors. “We have seen a noticeable increase from the areas we targeted.” said Solomon. “We are getting calls and visits from people that would probably not otherwise have known about us this year,” he said.
According to Solomon, Visit Florida and state tourism officials have been very supportive of all the storm-affected communities this year. “We depend on Visit Florida,” he said. “We don’t have the sales tax revenues that a lot of Florida coastal communities enjoy. Our two-cent bed tax revenues just don’t compare to other counties that levy larger three or four cent tourism taxes.” Solomon noted that increasing the bed tax revenues would enable to county to make larger tourism infrastructure expenditures such as repairs and construction for boat ramps, public bathroom and other tourism amenities.