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Naples Daily News: New campaign reminds: Collier County tourism puts dollars in everyone’s pockets

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Tourism doesn’t just mean sun and fun for the visitors who come to Collier County.

It means tax savings, employment and better experiences for county residents. That’s the message of a new educational campaign the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizationshas launched in partnership with the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau dubbed “Paradise Coast Tourism Works for Me.”

“It really does touch almost any aspect of a person’s daily life, not just the employees of the tourism industry but all citizens,” said Brianna Shoaf, a spokeswoman for the association.

The association, a trade group and voice for dozens of tourism marketing organizations around the state, will spearhead similar campaigns for four other areas of the state: Palm Beach, Pensacola, Panama City Beach and Central Florida.

The promotional efforts come as hoteliers and other industry leaders fight bills that would expand the uses for tourist taxes to include more capital projects and tighten the rules for spending tax dollars on tourism marketing in the state.

House Bill 3 — filed by Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte — would create new transparency and accountability requirements for economic development and tourism promotion agencies. It would increase oversight, impose new limits on travel and other expenses, and require more disclosure about contracts and spending.

House Bill 585 — filed by Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay — would allow tourist taxes to be spent on a wider variety of capital projects, including wastewater and transportation improvements. A similar bill has been proposed in the Senate.

“The more people that understand the benefits of tourism, whether it’s local residents or it’s people in Tallahassee, the better,” Shoaf said. “It’s just important for everyone. It’s such a large vibrant industry that brings so much revenue and jobs both for the state and Collier County.”

The educational campaign highlights that in 2016, more than 1.8 million tourists visited the county, spending nearly $2 billion in the local economy, and generating more than $21 million in tourist taxes and more than $126 million in sales and gas taxes.

The county has a 5 percent tourist tax, which is collected on hotel and other short-stay rentals. This fiscal year the tax is expected to raise $26 million.

The bed tax pays for tourism marketing and beach projects and supports local museums, attractions and events. Last year county commissioners voted to raise the tax from 4 percent to 5 percent to build an amateur sports complex.

The new educational campaign underscores that more visitors translate into more money in residents’ “hard-earned paychecks every month.” County residents saved an average of $988 in taxes last year because of the taxes visitors paid.

The campaign also points out that in 2016, tourist tax revenue:

  • Contributed $7.6 million to beach and inlet projects in the county
  • Generated $1.9 million to operate five-county owned museums

The campaign includes a website where county residents can get more information about the benefits of tourism:

Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau, visited Tallahassee last week to promote tourism and lobby against bills that could hurt his marketing efforts. He shared the importance of the industry to Collier County and the state with state leaders.

The educational campaign could be helpful in rallying residents around the tourism industry, encouraging them to reach out to their legislators in support of it, Wert said.

The message is being spread through the media and social media sites, such as Facebook.

“This is a grassroots campaign to see if it can get up to those folks passing legislation that could, in fact, hurt how we can promote in the future,” Wert said. “We just felt it was important for the local community to know the importance of the tourism industry.”

The campaign, which comes at no cost to the county, stresses “the numbers speak for themselves.”

“I think it helps our citizens to really understand that these visitors are not a negative,” Wert said. “They really are a positive. They support a lot of jobs and a lot of businesses in our community that need that visitation to survive.”


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