Lee County tourism continues to be lifeblood of local economy

  • Published by Vedat
The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB), representing The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in southwest Florida, reported record-breaking tax collections for the third year in a row, with $28.6 million in tourist tax on paid accommodations for fiscal year 2012-2013, which ended Sept. 30.

lee-county-floridaThe new record is a nearly 8 percent increase over last year’s record-breaking $26.5 million in collections and a 30.9 percent rise from the $22.7 million collected in fiscal year 2010.

“These numbers are even more impressive given their historical context,” said VCB Executive Director Tamara Pigott. “The bed tax has dipped only three times in county history, the most recent being during the recession-hit 2009 season. The four-year climb in collections since then says a great deal about how hard our community has worked together to make our local tourism industry strong.”

The VCB also reported positive results for other key tourism performance indicators for the destination. Visitation rose 8.5 percent from fiscal year 2011-2012; expenditures increased 4.5 percent; and average occupancy jumped by 6.8 percent. Similarly, the average daily room rate climbed 2.9 percent, and the average party size for visitors also finished up by 3.2 percent year-over-year.

In addition to the record-breaking numbers for the VCB’s fiscal year, the calendar year visitor statistics were favorable. From January through September 2013, visitation rose 12.3 percent, and average occupancy climbed 6.6 percent. Expenditures were up 3.7 percent, with visitors spending $2.1 billion in Lee County so far this year.

“Our local tourism partners played an important role in our collective success by delivering a great product, fantastic deals and outstanding customer service,” said Pigott. “I’m also proud of our recent marketing efforts. We fine-tuned our approach to target visitors both by geography and by their behaviors, and that’s certainly paying off.”

Lee County’s tourism industry has an economic impact of $2.7 billion annually and generates nearly $149 million in local government revenues. It employs 52,300 residents, which accounts for one in five jobs in the county.

Pigott said the VCB remains committed to serving the broader interests of Lee County’s economy by acting as an industry leader to market the entire area globally, facilitate travel to the destination, and preserve and protect the area's unique attributes for the continual benefit of its residents and visitors.

Tourist tax revenue – also known as the bed tax – funds three countywide functions: destination marketing; beach and shoreline renourishment, maintenance and enhancement projects; and stadium debt service and major maintenance for Lee County’s spring training facilities. The countywide tax is authorized by Florida Statute 125.0104 to increase tourist-related business activities in Lee County.

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