NEW PORT RICHEY — Visitors seem to be rediscovering Pasco County as a destination, with tourism tax revenue on track to match the best year ever, a county official said.
Tourism Manager Ed Caum said fiscal 2008 produced the record amount of $841,489 for the tourism fund. Pasco collects a 2 percent surcharge on short-term rental accommodations such as motel and hotel rooms. The money goes toward construction projects and marketing.
The recession walloped Pasco tourism tax revenue totals here, which fell to $639,696 in fiscal 2009.
A rebound began in fiscal 2012as tourism tax revenue hit $822,206, although that total include an accounting adjustment of more than $90,000 in the county’s favor.
Last fiscal year brought in $767,844.
With several months left to go in fiscal 2014, which ends Sept. 30, Pasco hadcollected $645,633 so far through the tourism tax.
Caum is bullish that trends will boost the county’s fortunes to its best showing in six years.
Hotel room occupancy rates are up 5 percent over 2013 totals, Caum noted. The county now has 2,956 hotel rooms. Pasco also got a boost from oil spill settlement money augmenting the tourism advertising budget.
The tourism-tax is the only yardstick available, Caum said. “I don’t have the exact number of visitors to Pasco,” Caum wrote in an email, “because we don’t have the staff to research like our southern neighbors. We have not done a visitor profile since 2005.”
A rising tide lifts all boats, Caum said. Pasco, The Suncoast and the rest of the state of Florida are enjoying a boom in the number of visitors.
Tourists pumped nearly $40 million into area hotels in July, filling two-thirds of hotel rooms, according to recent figures from Visit Tampa Bay.
That $40 million represents only what tourists paid for rooms, said Visit Tampa Bay spokesman Kevin Wiatrowski. “That doesn’t even count food, or spa treatments or rental cars” and other expenditures, he said.
The July hotel figures represent a 4.7 percent increase year over year. Rooms went for an average of nearly $87 per night, an increase of 6.3 percent over 2013, the figures show.
Statewide, Florida experienced a record second quarter with 24 million visitors between April and June, according to a press release from the governor’s office. The release quoted numbers from Visit Florida, the state’s tourism arm.
The number of tourist-related jobs was also at a record high statewide with some 1.1 million Floridians employed in tourism jobs, Visit Florida reports.