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VCB reports bed tax increase for latest fiscal year

By Staff | Dec 15, 2010

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) reports that tourist tax collections, also known as the bed tax, on the county’s paid accommodations rose nearly 4 percent for its fiscal year ending Sept. 31, 2010. Collections rose from $21,864,197 in fiscal year 2008-2009 to $22,734,270 in fiscal year 2009-2010.

In addition, the VCB said most of the destination’s tourism performance indicators were either flat or slightly down for its most recent fiscal year. Visitation ended the year down just 1.2 percent, from 4.8 million in FY 2008-2009 to 4.7 million in FY 2009-2010. This included a 5.6 percent increase in those staying in paid accommodations that was offset by a 6.9 percent decrease in visitors staying with friends and relatives.

This trend is one the VCB is striving to achieve, since visitors staying in paid accommodations tend to spend more in the destination, which helps explain a rise in bed tax collections in the face of a slight decrease in visitation. It is the second consecutive year in which visitors staying in paid accommodations have risen.

Average occupancy declined a slight 1.7 percent from 52.48 percent to 51.57 percent, and occupied room nights remained flat in spite of a 1.7 percent increase in available room nights. Average daily rates remained flat year over year at $119.79, and revenue per available room was down just 1.7 percent year over year.

The only significant decrease in tourism metrics came in expenditures, which declined 13 percent from $2.8 million in FY 2008-2009 to $2.4 million in FY 2009-2010.

“We’re encouraged by the destination’s overall performance, especially given the struggling economy over the last year and the Gulf oil spill this past summer,” said Tamara Pigott, VCB executive director. “We really held our own in bed tax collections and most other metrics in the midst of some challenging conditions.”

Given this success, Pigott said the VCB will stay the course in the coming fiscal year, with some adjustments and refinements to its marketing efforts. In addition to pursuing proven markets, the organization plans to court market segments that are not as deeply impacted by economic conditions and motivate potential visitors in decision-making in the destination’s favor.

VCB staff also intends to strengthen its sales efforts and hone its messaging as it places a special emphasis on the state of Florida, established international markets, and the group motorcoach market. And, with the increasing influence of the Internet on consumer travel, Pigott said digital marketing is another VCB emphasis for the coming fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2010.