Hotels rooms are filled, bed tax collections at a record rate this summer

By Wesley LeBlanc wesley@opcfla.com
Posted 9/1/21

CLAY COUNTY – The county collected a record amount of bed taxes this summer, signaling what many hope will be a return to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clay County tourism director …

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Hotels rooms are filled, bed tax collections at a record rate this summer

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – The county collected a record amount of bed taxes this summer, signaling what many hope will be a return to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clay County tourism director Kimberly Morgan announced during the Aug. 25 Tourism Development Council meeting bed tax collections for March through June were record-setting. She said the county collected more taxes during that four-month stretch than it did in 2021. This could put the 2021 tourism year on track with pre-pandemic numbers.

“This is a huge win for us,” Morgan said. “[Those numbers] almost put us to where we ended last year and we’re obviously not done yet. We’re hopeful, and I don’t want to speak too soon, but we’re hopeful we’ll finish closer to the 2018-19 numbers from before the pandemic.”

Morgan also said there’s been a major shift in that Clay County now has become a popular destination for visitors. It used to be most popular as a weekday destination – a place for golfers, for business meetings and vacations. She said the county now is considered a weekend destination. To bring more people here during the weekday, the tourism department is developing a “bring it home” campaign.

She said she wants business associations to come to Clay County for their big meetings which would help the coffers of local restaurants, shops and other amenities.

“It’s a matter of perspective,” Morgan said in regards to how the county markets itself. “We’re a small niche destination. We’re hovering around 85% occupancy and it’s because COVID-19 changed everything. People want a small-town destination ... this is from consumer behavior and research we’ve found. They want that small-town feel and they don’t want to be in big cities with crowds. They want to be outdoors – and outside is what we’re marketing and promoting.”

To help those tourists that do stay in Clay County, Morgan and her team are working with Bandwango to create a Clay’s Big PASSions passport-like program.

This passport would feature deals and discounts for local restaurants, businesses, coffee shops and more, she said. There are about 20 local businesses already in the PASSions passport and she wants to add even more.

There will be a passport for a Clay County coffee trail, a military history, historic homes and a restaurant trail, and more than a dozen others. Anyone would be able to pick these up at places like hotels and other tourist-focused centers to help them see and experience what the county has to offer.

In other business, Morgan said the county’s $66,000 annual contract with Airstream Ventures has a value of nearly $1.5 million thanks to the events it has already brought to Clay. Airstream Ventures senior director of events and tourism Joel Lamp told the BCC the recent Sunshine State Games event held in Clay County back in June was a great success for the county, especially since the county hasn’t hosted the games before.

There were nearly 500 participants and an estimated total of 860 attendees at the games. He said the marketing value was about $5,808 on the county’s part, and it had an estimated economic impact of $83,063. He and the TDC said they hope it’s the first of many games for the county.

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