Pinellas tourism begins 2019 on upward swing

Pinellas County’s tourism numbers for January show marked improvement, according to information in the Economics Snapshot report presented at the March 13 Tourist Development Council meeting.

CLEARWATER — Visit St. Pete-Clearwater’s interim President and CEO Jim Dean announced good news at the March 13 Tourist Development Council meeting.

January’s tourism numbers were good, he said, and it looks like they’ll be strong for February. Early indications show Pinellas will have a good spring break season.

Local hoteliers saw a decrease in business from about September-December 2018, mostly due to red tide on area beaches. Bed tax collections were down $6,529 in September 2018, compared to the year before. In October, collections were down $306,881.

Things began to improve in November and December with modest increases, but conditions remained troubling when compared to the year before. Bed tax collections were up by only 1.6 percent in November of fiscal year 2019, which began in October, compared to FY 2018 and only 1.08 percent in December.

However, in FY 2018, bed tax collections increased 12.89 percent in November and 14.83 percent in December — a significant difference.

So, a 7.53 percent increase, or $334,789 in additional bed tax in January, is a positive indication that tourism is on an upward swing.

In addition, the number of room nights sold is making a comeback. In December, room nights sold was down 3.2 percent, but in January, they were up 3.1 percent compared to the previous year. In addition, the average daily rate increased 1.9 percent to $136.96, and the revenue per available room was $92.50. In December, the average daily rate decreased to $130.30 and the revenue per available room was $79.51.

Visit St. Pete-Clearwater is the county’s official marketing and management organization. The Tourist Development Council and staff of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater make recommendations to the County Commission on decisions about the Tourist Development Tax. The TDC meets monthly to discuss matters related to the tourism industry.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.