The recession, it turns out, didn't damper the mood of the annual Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism.
Attendees instead shared an abundance of good news at the confab, held Sept. 25-27 in Hollywood.
Sarasota County, for one, reported a 17% year-over-year increase in monthly Tourist Development Taxes collected, from $698,754 in July 2010 to $818,062 this past July, according to the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau. Those figures are based on the first 4% collected in bed taxes because the county only recently raised the tax to 5%.
This past July, moreover, was the best July ever for Sarasota, even based on the 4% rate. The previous best July was 2007, when the county collected $730,279 in taxes.
Virginia Haley, president of the SCVB, says the tourism conference was full of similar stories. Officials with counties and cities in the Panhandle, for example, touted some of their own best months ever.
The increase in Sarasota, says Haley, is surely connected to Siesta Key Beach's No. 1 ranking for beach quality in a widely circulated global survey. “The key,” Haley tells Coffee Talk, “was really capitalizing on that designation.”