DADE CITY — Many would-be vacationers might not have heard of Pasco County, so tourism leaders here are determined to change perceptions to make the county a vacation destination.

Pasco commissioners last week approved spending up to $481,000 to hire the Zimmerman Agency LLC to restructure and re-position’s the county’s tourism outreach program.

The appropriation includes $331,200 for the Tallahassee-based public relations, advertising and digital firm and $150,000 for brand launch and media placement.

The money will come from the Office of Tourism Development marketing and promotions reserve contingency fund. Part of the 4 percent tourist tax the county collects on motel and hotel rooms and other short-term rental accommodations is earmarked for tourism promotions.

County commissioners want a tourism marketing strategy that is “cohesive,” not “scattershot,” Pasco Visitors Bureau Director Adam Thomas acknowledged June 5. The new direction will give Pasco a “positive edge,” said Thomas, a former professional baseball player who came to Pasco from Citrus County, where he was tourism director, in September 2017.

After positive results on a recent tourism survey, Commissioner Jack Mariano said, he would like to see the county’s tourism promotion efforts place more emphasis on attractions such as SunWest Park, in Aripeka, and the youth sports complex being built in the Wiregrass area of south-central Pasco.

In addition, beaches should be included in the new tourism thrust, Mariano suggested.

“We all have the same vision,” Commission Chairman Mike Wells said. “We have so many different messages out there. We need to all come together.”

Wells said he would like to see a budget item that would expand Pasco’s videography department.

Under the one large Pasco tourism umbrella, the county could place leisure, sports and other specialty topics, Thomas noted. Fishing, scalloping, trails and other features already are in place now that the county could leverage. A skydiving facility remains another unique lure.

In addition to the rebranding push, Pasco also is starting Visit Pasco’s new Matching Marketing Sponsorship Program.

The Office of Tourism Development will provide up to $5,000 to promote events and increase visitation to Pasco.

“Matching provides a win-win partnership for the county and event organizers,” said Consuelo Sanchez, Pasco tourism program manager. “It’s a great tool to reach new markets outside the Tampa Bay region and to increase attendance.”

Applications must be received by June 28, Sanchez said. Approved applicants must present a funding request to the Pasco Tourist Development Council advisory panel. The County Commission has the final say on the funding requests.

The county requires participants provide a dollar-for-dollar match, either monetary or in-kind goods or services.

Marketing dollars must be used to pay for promotional activities outside the Suncoast.

The new program replaces the previous Special Event Marketing Program.

To apply for funding, contact the Office of Tourism Development at 727-847-8129 or cbsanchez@pascocountyfl.net.

For more information about Pasco County Tourism and events, visit www.visitpasco.net.