July 14, 2010 TDC Meeting Recap

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dear Industry Partner:

Below you'll find just a few highlights from this month's Tourist Development Council meeting. Due to the number of items on today's agenda, several reports had to be curtailed, so below is a quick rundown of the highlights of items of importance to the tourism community at large. As always, complete individual monthly departmental reports are available for viewing on our industry website, PinellasCVB.com.

Occupancy Rates Up 6% for May
Occupancy rates for area lodgings were up 6% compared to May of 2009, due in large part to a 36% increase in local and regional visitation, as well as increases of more than 7% in both the Midwest and Canadian markets.

VF Study Shows Potential for $6 billion Loss In Florida Tourism
On a weekly conference call earlier this week, Visit Florida President and CEO Chris Thompson announced the results of their latest research, which found that some 10% of respondents who had planned Florida vacations had changed their travel plans due to negative publicity resulting from the oil spill. Since Florida tourism generates an estimated $65 billion annually, this double-digit percentage decline would mean a loss of more than $6 billion for the year---which is roughly the amount of tourism revenues generated in Pinellas County every year.

New VSPC AD Campaign Takes Oil Perception Head-On
This weekend, VSPC will launch the second phase of its advertising campaign designed to combat negative perceptions about the oil spill. The new ads, which will appear in regional newspapers on Sunday, feature an oil-gauge graphic with the needle reading below zero, accompanied by the words "Enough Said." New radio and TV ads that clearly state the "no oil-enough said" message will air next week as well. A social media campaign featuring regular updates from scuba divers in the Gulf of Mexico will be launching late this week, reinforcing the "no oil" messaging.

2010 Increase in Canadian Visitation Combats European Declines
Thanks to aggressive sales, PR and marketing campaigns in that market, Canadian visitation to Pinellas County is up by 10% year to date over 2009, according to figures presented today by Walter Klages of Research Data Services. That translates to a gain of nearly 20,000 visitors to our area from Canada in the first five months of 2010 alone. With more sales missions, media events and marketing in store, we're hopeful that the upward trend will continue throughout the year. This uptick has gone a long way toward making up for declines in European tourism to the area, which is down 9% year to date due to a combination of both the devaluation of the Euro and oil spill concerns.

Marketing Campaign Increases Web Traffic, Visitor Guide Requests
Recent ad campaigns brought substantial increases to both web traffic and visitor guide requests, which are both seen as useful barometers of intent to travel among potential visitors. Due to highly targeted advertising and marketing campaigns in New York, St, Louis, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, web traffic from those destinations spiked by an average of 18% in April and May. Web traffic from our summertime drive markets of Orlando and greater Tampa Bay, which we have focused on as well, saw similar increases of more than 15% in April and May.

Pinellas County Tax Collector Announces Bed Tax Amnesty, Online Payments
The Pinellas County Tax Collector's Office has launched a new online system dubbed TouristExpress, which will make it more convenient---and faster---for accommodations to remit bed taxes, eliminating the use of paper returns. Current tourist development account holders can register for the program by visiting this TouristExpress page. Also, through September 30, the Pinellas County Tax Collector's office is offering an amnesty program, releasing delinquent taxpayers of standard liabilities and penalties, providing the property pays all late taxes and 50 percent of the associated interest charges. More information on the program can be found here.

Again, these are just a few highlights of the meeting. Also, as a reminder, in addition to the streaming video of the entire meeting available from PCC TV, you can view all of the CVB's individual monthly departmental reports on our industry web site, PinellasCVB.com.

Regards, David David Downing Assistant Director Visit St. Pete/Clearwater