Tourism Mainstay at "Destination Clearwater"
By Bill Lopez
CLEARWATER - Lee Daniels, Director of the Clearwater Convention and Visitors' Bureau, provided a lengthy report to the City Council last Thursday on the state of visitor business in Clearwater.
Daniels has held his position for 18 years and last week's presentation was his first to the City Council. In just under one hour, he detailed a wealth of information about the extent of tourism in the area and the marketing efforts engaged to generate convention and tourism business.
He said the Bureau's current budget is $15 million annually with $9.7 million of that sum going to advertising--the focal point of which is the pristine beach at Clearwater along with the accommodations that support it as a world- class destination.
The intent is to globally brand St. Pete/Clearwater a premiere Florida beach resort destination in accordance with the Board of County Commissionís 2010 vision. Advertising imagery and copy seek to convey an upscale and diverse destination that will help stimulate overnight visits among travelers worldwide.
While leveraging the destinationís award winning beaches, special emphasis is given Caladesi Island as a top US beach ranked by Dr. Beach and the high marks it has received from the Travel Channel and Blue Wave Beaches.
Funds for marketing the city come mainly from a bed tax. The city recently completed an analysis of the 5 percent local option Tourist Development tax (bed tax) to determine: (1) Tax collection amounts and percentage of total County collections for properties located within the City of Clearwater; (2) the distribution processes (direct funding) of the tax specific to Clearwater; and (3) an over-all summary and historical breakdown of the 5 percent tax.
Persons or businesses that receive rent for periods of less than six month are responsible for remitting the taxes to the Pinellas County Tax Collector. Over the years the amounts have escalated to the present 5 percent from just 2 percent initiated Nov 1, 1978.
Besides marketing and advertising and sales promotion, the tax proceeds are authorized for capital construction of tourist related facilities and beach/shoreline maintenance. Presently the allocation of budgeted funds that accrue from the tax are: 59.8 percent for marketing and operations, 21.0 percent for debt service for sports facilities, 9.0 percent for beach nourishment, 2.2 percent for cultural marketing grants, 3.0 percent for tax collector services and 5.0 percent for reserves.
The Clearwater bureau works hand in hand with the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (SPACVB) operated by Pinellas County. This agency is charged with enhancing the countyís economy by increasing direct visitor expenditures and job development, training and retention in the tourism industry throughout Pinellas County.
It works domestically and internationally to develop and enhance consumer interest, travel media travel industry attention and the attention of meeting and conference planners, sports promoters and film producers. It provides research-driven marketing programs focusing on beaches, sports, arts and culture and nature-based opportunities.
Businesses inside Clearwater limits represent the largest dollar and percentage amounts of collections in Pinellas County in recent reporting periods.
As plans for a new major league baseball stadium take shape, the allocation of funds from the city's bed tax for support of the station and its long-term funding will be under review of the city and county.
Contact Bill Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Return to Current Edition