May 11, 2011 TDC Meeting Recap

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dear Industry Partner:

Below you'll find just a few highlights from this month's Tourist Development Council meeting. In the past we have hosted all of the reports individually by department on, but this year, in an effort to encourage conservation of paper and streamline the process, we have begun posting the agenda online, with clickable links to all of the individual departmental reports. Please note that each of these clickable agendas will be posted on this page of our industry site the Monday before the TDC meeting each month.

TDC Approves VSPC 2012 Budget, Beach Nourishment Saved in State Budget
The CVB's 2012 budget, which was discussed in great detail at last week's budget workshop, was approved by a unanimous vote of the Tourist Development Council. It will now move on to Pinellas County's Board of County Commissioners for consideration later this summer.

In other budget news, State Representative Jim Frishe (R-FL 54th District) made a brief appearance to update us on the outcome of the legislative session that ended in the wee hours of Saturday morning. We're happy to report that beach nourishment funding, which was in danger of being cut out altogether, was reinstated in the 2012 budget to the tune of $16 million, a figure which grows exponentially since it is matched by federal funds. We thank Rep. Frishe for his strong leadership role on this issue and for being a champion of the tourism industry. Other good news from the roller-coaster legislative session was that Visit Florida will remain a stand-alone agency, and that the Online Travel Company bill---which would have officially exempted OTC's from paying taxes on profits made from resale of hotel rooms---was defeated.

March Bed Tax Collection Approaches All Time Record as Oil Fears Recede
March proved to be a banner month for Bed Tax Collection in the St. Pete/ Clearwater area, bringing in a total of $4,047,537. That figure, which equated to the second highest single-month bed tax collection on record behind March 2008, represented a 9.23% increase over last year's mark. The tourism tax benefitted from strong growth across the board, with occupancy up 9.7% over March 2010 and the average daily rate besting last year's number by 5.9%. Other positive news reported was that, according to recent poll by Destination Analysts, the percentage of travelers who say that the oil spill will affect their travel plans to the Gulf Coast states declined to 17.5%, which is a 50 percent reduction from the poll taken the month the leak was capped.

Area Promoted on Post-Saturday Night Live Spot Around U.S., NBC in NYC
VSPC's saturation in New York City this winter---with our co-branded advertising campaign with JetBlue and an aggressive PR push to local media---helped propel NYC to the top spot on the list of domestic feeder markets in March 2011, up from number two last year. A pair of television spots produced for LXNY and LXTV's 1st Look, two NBC affiliated lifestyle and entertainment programs highlighted hot spots from Clearwater Beach to downtown St. Pete. LXNY's Ann Mercogliano was whisked away for a surprise Clearwater Beach vacation where she found fellow winter-weary New Yorkers, while 1st Look correspondent Pedro Andrade indulged in culture and dining in downtown St. Pete. Andrade's segment aired in nine markets across the country, following the widely-watched Saturday Night Live.

New Ads, Sports Coverage Put Area in National Spotlight
St. Pete/Clearwater is going coast to coast---from the small screen to your computer screen---thanks to a variety of television commercials, news features and online segments shot right here in the area. In a recent online campaign, Dairy Queen's Treatsmen traversed Clearwater Beach in an off-road Mini Cooper Countryman to promote their Mini-Blizzard and Mini giveaway contest. And while you won't be able to spot the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa in the new Pepsi MAX 'Clubhouse in the Corn' commercial---or any other area landmark, for that matter---that national ad was shot in the same warehouse built for the soon-to-be released Dolphin Tale film. Both spots cater to a young, hip demographic---a trend that continued with NBCUniversal covering February's Gator Nationals BMX action from Oldsmar. One of the extreme sport's most prestigious contests, footage from the event is airing throughout the month of May.

Social Media Stats Drive Digital Decisions, Mobile Platform Push
As VSPC prepares to launch a newly updated version of its website, Nate Huff, senior vice president of publishing with Miles Media, shared these surprising facts on the importance of social media and mobile marketing:

  • One in five people on Earth have a Facebook presence.
  • More mobile devices were activated---over 4 billion---than babies were born in 2010.
  • More smartphones were purchased than personal computers last Christmas.
  • Only 5% of all apps downloaded are ever used again after the first month of use.

While a mobile version of will soon be available for those on the go, VSPC's Facebook and Twitter pages continue to flourish, reaching thousands of engaged consumers daily.

As we celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, we extend our thanks to all of you who made it to our Tourism Luncheon in Tarpon Springs last week, as well as those who made it out to Tampa International Airport for our Tourism Rally held in conjunction with Tampa Bay & Company (you can see a news clip of that event here).

We thank all of you for your partnership as we continue to grow Pinellas County's number one employer and economic generator: tourism.

Again, these are just a few highlights of the meeting. Also, as a reminder, in addition to the individual reports and online agenda, you can watch streaming video of the entire meeting available online from Pinellas County Communications.



David Downing
Assistant Director
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater