Tourism inches closer to a billion dollar industry in Florida’s Capital County as Leon County saw its sixth consecutive year of tourism growth including its third consecutive record year in 2014.
More than 2.4 million visitors from 47 different states and 36 countries generated a $963 million economic impact to local businesses last year. Tourism accounts for more than 11,140 jobs in Leon County.
“In Leon County, we have a rich array of educational, recreational, cultural and social offerings for people of all ages,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Mary Ann Lindley. “And with each year, our tourism economy continues to grow.”
Lee Daniel, Director of the Leon County Division of Tourism Development, announced the year-end results and unveiled future plans to local tourism industry members during the annual Marketing Rollout on Oct. 1 at Theatre Tallahassee.
Highlights of the 2014/2015 fiscal year include:
• 12% increase in bed-tax collections, which fund all tourism promotions
• 2.6% increase in hotel occupancy, including a record occupancy of 73% in March (average year-round occupany is 65%)
• $30.8 million in economic impact from sporting events and team training, for example the Tallahassee Tottenham Hotspur International Player Development Training that took place at Forest Meadows in August and the British Olympic Association Dive Team Training taking place at Morcom Aquatic Center later this month
"The team at Tourism continues to raise the bar through creativity and innovation," said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. "For those who live in Leon County, we all know we have something special in our backyard. And through the work of Tourism, the entire region--and even the nation--are learning about what we have to offer. It's exciting to say: this is just the beginning of more record years."
The county collects a 5% bed tax from hotels and short-term lodging establishments which fund all tourism promotions and other tourism-related activities.
In addition, the Leon County Division of Tourism Development grants helped fund 103 sports, special and signature events in the county. The Council on Culture and Arts (COCA) received $904,500 in tourism funds for its arts and culture events, nearly twice the amount it previously received.
“It’s been a banner year across all sectors,” Daniel said. “We saw positive growth in all key indicators including visitation, spending and tourism-related jobs.”
Tourism officials introduced the 2016 visitor guide, cooperative advertising plans available to the industry and other initiatives, which included a new logo for promotional use, expanded online advertising ventures with one venture targeting guests at local hotels and attractions, and expanded promotions for outdoor recreation including enhancements to its award-winning Trailahassee.com website.
The event also included the announcement of the 2015 Thomas A. Waits Distinguished Leadership Awards. The “Tommy Awards” recognize an individual and company or organization for excellence in tourism marketing, community initiatives, innovation and developing partnerships on behalf of the tourism and hospitality industry.
COCA and Ricky Bell, Director of Student Activities for Leon County Schools, received the awards. The awards are presented annually to those nominated by the tourism community and selected by a panel of past recipients.
For 30 years, COCA has served as a catalyst for the development and support of arts and culture in the capital region. It provides information and promotes arts and culture to residents and visitors through a variety of methods including an events calendar and social media promotions.
Bell has served on the Tallahassee Sports Council, a segment of the county’s tourism program, for more than 14 years and served as the group’s chair for two years. He was instrumental in establishing relationships with other government entities, Florida State University and Florida A&M and using the strength of this alliance in attracting major sporting events to the county.
The awards have been presented annually since 2002. In 2003, the award was officially named “The Thomas A. Waits Hospitality Award” – affectionately known as “The Tommy.” It pays tribute to
a man who dedicated his career to economic development through tourism. In 2010, the program expanded for also recognizing one organization that reflects the ideals and visionary leadership of tourism excellence.
The Leon County Division of Tourism Development (Visit Tallahassee) is the official tourism marketing organization for Tallahassee–Leon County, Florida, promoting tourism to the area through direct sales, advertising, public relations, sports, film, product development and visitor services. For more information, visit www.VisitTallahassee.com.