June 9, 2010 TDC Meeting Recap

Wednesday, June 9, 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 or skipped altogether, 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.

Bed Tax, Occupancy Rates Up for April; May on Track for Same
Pinellas County's Bed Tax collections for April were up 2.6% to $2,692,901.92, driven mostly by a concurrent 3.2% uptick in occupancy. And while Average Daily Rates (ADR) showed a slight 3.4% contraction, preliminary May figures show occupancy up by 4.4%. Also, in an attempt to gauge how the BP Oil Spill is affecting travel to the area, Research Data Services has been conducting an ongoing Travel Panel Study. The most recent "pulse," which took place between June 4-7, found that 72.7% of people who plan to visit Pinellas are to date not changing their plans due to the spill. We'll update you on the findings of that report in the coming weeks.

Proposed Bed Tax Ordinance Change Addressed
The TDC voted down a proposed change in the current bed tax ordinance that would, among other things, allow Bed Tax dollars to be used for construction of new museums. After the down vote, and after much discussion, Council members decided to send the issue back to the subcommittee for further discussion and review. The results of that subcommittee meeting will be presented at next month's full TDC meeting, which is scheduled for July 14.

VSPC's $2.5 Million Marketing Request Delivered to Tallahassee
Last week, VSPC sent a letter to Governor Charlie Crist requesting $2.5 million of the $25 million in emergency marketing funds the state received from BP. On Monday, the governor toured Pinellas County and met with local tourism and business leaders, then requested---and received---a second letter outlining exactly how the requested funds would be spent. The proposal explains the main elements of a comprehensive, multi-tiered campaign encompassing advertising, direct sales, research, promotions, webcams and the sourcing of a global crisis PR firm. We are waiting to hear back from his office.

New TV Spot: St. Pete/Clearwater is "Wide Open"
In the face of growing worldwide misperceptions about the condition of local beaches, VSPC has developed new TV ads that explicitly state that we remain 100% open for business. The first of these, which can be seen here, will debut nationally this Sunday on NBC during the 4 pm rebroadcast of the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3. Subsequent versions will air in the following weeks in the Tampa and Orlando markets, our largest summertime drive markets.

National Efforts: Airline Cancellations Fees and Senate Testimony
VSPC Executive Director DT Minich is in Washington today to meet with the US Travel Association and the Air Travel Association to push for the relaxing of penalties and fees associated with changing or cancelling airline reservations. This would go a long way toward encouraging tourism to the area, since visitors would not be penalized if they had to cancel their airline reservations due to concerns about the oil spill affecting their vacation. Also, at the request of Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), this morning Minich testified before a Senate committee regarding eliminating the cap for damages that BP will be liable for as a result of this spill. To quote from his written testimony: "Put very simply, it's about fairness: if BP is unable to cap their well, then why should we be forced to put a cap on the damages they are responsible for paying?"

Book With Confidence Guarantee Expands
To encourage tourists to visit our area and to show our confidence that area beaches will remain completely unaffected by the oil spill, VSPC partnered with local hoteliers to develop and institute a "Book With Confidence" guarantee. We're currently working with industry on a refinement to the language that would allow even more local hoteliers to join in and extend this guarantee. Both our domestic and international PR agencies strongly support the idea and see great potential to promote this to counter negative perceptions about the oil's effect on our area. If you are interested in joining our efforts, you can find more information by visiting here.

Presentation Explores Sports Tourism Potential
At the request of the TDC, Sport Commissioner Kevin Smith presented an overview of the challenges and opportunities presented by the growth of sports tourism. His report, which can be seen here, shows proposed field development in neighboring counties and makes recommendations for Pinellas to remain competitive. Last year the St. Pete/Clearwater Sport Commission generated 98,000 room nights with an economic impact of more than $23 million.

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.


David Downing
Assistant Director
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater