Fla. Tourism Numbers Harder to Pinpoint
In July 2006 researchers for the Tourist Development Council (TDC) in Lee County, Fla., reported that 179,150 tourists spent $88,494,725.
In July 2007 researchers reported 498,876 tourists spent $294,104,450.
That doesn’t mean business at hotels, restaurants and attractions in the Fort Myers area drastically improved. It means different researchers were doing the counting, according to the Naples Daily News.
“I can’t speak for the previous researchers,” said Nicole Devine of Davidson Peterson Associates (DPA), the new firm. “It’s a different methodology.”
Devine said the company tracks visitors staying with friends or relatives in addition to those staying in hotels, motels and condos.
The latter group is made up of the ones who pay the 5% bed tax, however, which is collected on all short-term lodgings of six months or less. The bed-tax collections rose by just more than 10% over last July.
According to DPA’s breakdown, 135,448 visitors stayed in Lee County hotels and motels during July. Another 82,886 rented condos or vacation homes and 12,526 stayed in RV parks or campgrounds. That’s a total of 230,860 in paid accommodations. That’s fewer than the 259,016 who visited friends and relatives.
Research Data Services, which tracked tourism for the TDC from its beginning in the early 1980s until this year, said just less than 16% of last July’s visitors came to see friends or relatives.
TDC Communications Director Nancy Hamilton said she can’t explain the differences, but the new researchers will establish a new baseline for comparison. That doesn’t help her now as she prepares for the TDC’s 25th anniversary, trying to do historical comparisons.
“I have the same questions that you do,” she said.
DPA also reported that the average visitor to Lee County is slightly younger and slightly richer than previously reported. In 2006 the median age of the head of household visitor was reported as 48 and income was a reported $87,941 a year.
According to DPA the average visitor is 47 and makes $95,500 a year.