Polk County Sets Tourism Tax Collection Record

By: Jessica Roberts

Second Straight Year for Double Digit Revenue Increase

Fiscal year 2014-15 tourism tax collections increased 18% over 2013-14 collections, setting a new record of tourism taxes collected in a year. Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing’s 2015 fiscal year tourism tax collections totaled more than $9.1 million, continuing a six year trend of annual tourism tax collection growth dating back to 2010. The 2015 fiscal year tourism tax collections eclipsed the previous record of $7.7 million set in fiscal year 2014. All twelve months in fiscal year 2015 saw strong increases in tourism tax collected ranging from 9% to 26%, with April tax collections setting a new single-month Polk County tourism tax collection record totaling $1,120,759.

Tourism tax revenues are not the only metric utilized to assess the health of the area’s tourism industry. Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing utilizes numerous performance measures and metrics including both demand and supply analytics. Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing also integrate Smith Travel Research’s hotel accommodation measurement data, which includes Average Daily Rates, Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) and Occupancy Rates that directly measure the health of visitation to an area.

“Research and data analysis create the foundation for Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing’s annual strategic sales and marketing plans. However, insights provided by our stakeholders, committees and the Tourist Development Council provide invaluable information and a strategic advantage for our organization,” said Mark Jackson, director of Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing. “An unwavering commitment to producing the highest return-on-investment, coupled with a balanced demand driving and supply-side development philosophy have created a bright future for Polk County’s tourism industry.”

A number of factors have contributed to the growth in tourism revenues reported during the first third of the fiscal year including the continued success of LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Bok Tower Gardens, Safari Wilderness Ranch, Streamsong Resort, and a number of meetings and large sporting events that were held during the past twelve months. Events such as the 2014 IPSC World Handgun Championships, the SkillsUSA Florida State Leadership and Skills Conference, Sun N Fly In and Detroit Tigers Spring Training that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to Polk County have strongly contributed to the increase in tourism tax collections over previous years.

The increasing effectiveness of Visit Central Florida’s digital marketing programs, the development of marketing platforms targeting the Latin American Market and the efficient targeting of key domestic and in-state visitor markets continue to pay dividends by drawing overnight visitation from a wide range of domestic and international markets.

Polk County Sports Marketing’s ability to diversify the type of youth and collegiate events that are hosted in Polk County is also garnering strong returns. Polk County has always been a top destination for the nation’s best competitions in the traditional “stick and ball” sports including: baseball, softball and soccer. Polk County Sports marketing has made great strides in attracting more non-traditional sporting competitions including: practical shooting (Universal Shooting Academy regional, state and national championships), lacrosse (Spring Break Sports Inc. lacrosse spring training) and running/triathlon events (IRONMAN 70.3 Florida). In total Polk County Sports marketing hosted 229 sporting events in fiscal year 2014-15 that generated more than $132 million in economic impact.

“With the recent success in recruiting high profile events that will be held in Polk County in the upcoming year including: Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant, Military Order of the Purple Heart, US Quidditch South Regional Championships, Military Officers Association of America, National Archery in Schools Florida State Championship and the Harley-Davidson Owners Group Rally, all indications point to 2015-16 being another record setting year for tourism in Polk County,” Jackson said.

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