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Signs point to banner Lee County tourist season

May 11, 2013
Tamara Pigott
Tamara Pigott

Tourism feeder markets

Top U.S. cities of origin and their Lee County market share, Jan.-Feb.:
• Chicago, 7 percent
• With 6 percent share each: Indianapolis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit, and Boston.
SOURCE: Survey-based estimates by Davidson-Peterson associates. Visitors using paid lodgings.


The numbers are in: Season sizzled.

“It looks like we’ll have another record-breaking year,” said Lee County tourism chief Tamara Pigott, addressing the county’s Tourist Development Council meeting Friday in downtown Fort Myers.

Bed tax collections, visitor totals, visitor spending and average daily rate were among the indicators scoring gains for the first quarter.

Bed taxes for January through March topped $17.4 million, up a hefty 7.9 percent over the previous year.

Average daily rate for all forms of lodgings countywide increased 2.7 percent year-over-year, to $151.62. That’s a big improvement over winter 2009’s average daily rate of $134.66, but still not as robust as winter 2008 when the rate was about $175, said Marcia Wood, research director for Davidson-Peterson Associates, the county’s statistical consultant.

Visitor spending on accommodations rose 1 percent for the first quarter. But other spending was flat.

At the Lazy Flamingo restaurant at Four Winds Marina on Bokeelia, manager Eric Post called his season “very good — about the same as last year’s.”

Cold fronts during three weekends in March hurt business a little bit, Post said. However, he’s picking up good vibes about the next several weeks. “We’re seeing a lot of sport fishers and guides,” Post said. “They’re looking forward to a darned good tarpon season.”

March is to tourism what December is to retailing. Looking only at March:

• Preliminary bed tax collections in Lee County topped $6.25 million for a 5.4 percent gain. Lee County charges a 5 percent bed tax to renters of short-term lodgings.

• Meanwhile, Collier County’s bed tax collections for the month topped $3.3 million, the highest monthly tax collection for the county since the tax was adopted in 1992. Collier County’s bed tax is 4 percent.

Jack Wert, executive director for the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, also is predicting a record year.

In new business, Lee’s tourism council Friday also endorsed a funding package for beach and shoreline maintenance and capital improvement projects that totaled nearly $7.6 million.

That’s about $1 million more than the fund balance. Some of the difference might come from tapping reserves, said Nancy MacPhee, visitor bureau program manager for product development.

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