Following on the heels of a record setting fiscal year in 2014, Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing (PCTSM) is proud to share a new milestone. For the first time, tourism tax collections in Polk County eclipsed the $1 million mark in a single month, with PCTSM recording $1,152,195 in tourism taxes from sales in March. The March 2015 tourism tax collections reflect a 17.8% increase over taxes collected in March of 2014, continuing the record pace that the tourism agency has experienced throughout this fiscal year. Monthly collections have increased for the past 24 consecutive months.
PCTSM’s 2014 fiscal year tourism tax collections totaled more than $7.7 million, breaking the previous record of $7.3 million set in fiscal year 2008. Through the first seven months of the 2015 fiscal year, tourism tax collections are 15% above the record revenue levels recorded in 2014. In all seven months of this fiscal year, PCTSM has recorded double-digit increases in tourism tax collections, over 2014 levels.
“These record breaking visitor levels are proof positive that our sports event recruitment strategies and tourism marketing initiatives are bringing people from across the globe to experience all that Polk County has to offer,” said Mark Jackson, director of PCTSM. “Our team’s sales efforts with event right’s holders and at consumer travel shows are working in concert with our engaging website content and social media interaction to entice visitors to spend their vacation time in our area.”
In addition to the success of PCTSM’s advertising initiatives, a number of factors have contributed to the record tourism tax revenue trend. The Detroit Tigers had very strong attendance in their 79th spring training spent in Lakeland. Combined attendance for their 17 home games topped 134,000, which was the third highest home attendance of any team training in Florida. The Detroit Tigers drew an average of 7,905 people per game with their highest attended game drawing 9,817 fans to see the Tigers take on the New York Yankees on March 20. While the Tigers may have been the best known name in town, they were definitely not the only game in town as a total of 23 PCTSM events were held in March, the largest of those being the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational and the Rebel Spring Games. These two events combined brought 275 college baseball and softball teams to Polk County (RussMatt baseball: 214 teams; Rebel Spring Games softball: 61 teams).
PCTSM is optimistic that the March record is a harbinger that the best is yet to come. The impact from some of Polk County’s largest events, such as the SkillsUSA Florida State Conference, IRONMAN 70.3 Florida and SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In & Expo, has yet to be announced as they were held in the month of April. May and June tourism tax revenues will see the first impacts from the new LEGOLAND Florida Resort Hotel that opened on May 15. Longer term forecasts also appear to show that the current increases in visitation to the area will continue well into the foreseeable future as more of the current tourism based expansion/development projects continue to come to fruition. The Detroit Tigers are set to begin construction on their $37 million improvement project to Joker Marchant Stadium and Tigertown. New hotel projects are currently underway in Lakeland and Bartow with additional accommodation projects currently being developed. In April the Tourist Development Council and the Polk County Board of County Commissioners approved $27 million for four major capital improvement projects that include renovation of The Lakeland Center, expansion of the Lake Myrtle Sports Park, a meeting and convention center/field-house in Winter Haven and the construction of a history and heritage cluster, the Historic Fort Meade Outpost and Equestrian Center. These projects will further enhance Polk County’s tourism infrastructure and benefit visitors and local residents alike.