Tallahassee, Fla. (October 12, 2016) - Leon County Tourism continues a pattern of success as the destination saw its seventh consecutive year of growth, reaching new heights in 2016.
More than 2.35 million visitors from 47 different states and 36 countries generated $863 million in economic impact to the community last year. Tourism accounts for more than 14,100 jobs in Leon County.
Kerri Post, Executive Director of the Leon County Division of Tourism Development (Visit Tallahassee), announced the year-end results and unveiled future plans to local tourism industry members during the annual Marketing Rollout on September 22 at the newly opened Champions Club at Florida State University’s Doak Campbell Stadium.
Highlights of the 2015/2016 fiscal year include:
- Tourist Development Tax (TDT or bed tax) collections through the first 11 months of the fiscal year (at $4.76 million) currently track ahead of last year’s 12-month record of $5.14 million
- Hotel occupancy for the previous 12 months through August is 61.8%, ahead of the previous record year
- Leon County hosted 99 youth and adult sporting events, attracting more than 73,000 visitors and resulting in an economic benefit of $31.6 million in direct spending
- $17.5 million in visitor spending was generated by meetings and leisure groups
- 92% of area visitors are likely to return to Leon County, according to an independent research study
The county collects a 5% bed tax from hotels and short-term lodging establishments which fund all tourism promotions and other tourism-related activities.
In addition, through Leon County Division of Tourism Development’s (Visit Tallahassee) grants, $515,000 was invested locally to help fund sports, special and signature events in the county. The Council on Culture and Arts (COCA) receives $1.25 million in tourism funds for its arts and culture events and capital investments.
“There are positive indicators in visitation, spending and tourism-related jobs that frame our goal of achieving even more and reaching new heights,” Post said. “We are closer to becoming a nationally recognized destination acclaimed for our tremendous outdoor recreation, dining, arts and culture, history and heritage, and entertainment.”
The Leon County Division of Tourism Development (Visit Tallahassee) is focused on “new heights” and used that theme for its presentation to industry members. Tourism officials introduced the 2017 Visitor Guide and future advertising plans that include expanded online programs with video components. The county’s tourism division also will revamp its award-winning Trailahassee.com website, incorporating new GPS mapping technology and other personalized features for trail users.
The Marketing Rollout event also included the announcement of the 2016 Thomas A. Waits Distinguished Leadership Awards. The annual “Tommy Awards” recognize an individual and a company or organization for excellence in tourism marketing, community initiatives, innovation and developing partnerships on behalf of the tourism and hospitality industry in Leon County.
Proof Brewing Co. and Christopher Heacox, Director of Opening Nights Performing Arts, received this year’s awards, having been selected by a panel of past recipients who evaluated nominations from the tourism community.
Founded in 2007, Proof helped establish the local brew scene and continues to lead the charge. It expanded in 2010, opening a brewery and taproom in Railroad Square Art Park. The new facility features a state-of-the-art, 20-barrel brew house, fully automated canning line, tasting room and outdoor beer garden. The tasting room offers views of the entire brewing operation, which quickly became popular with residents and visitors.
Proof helped launch the Florida Tap Invitational – a local festival featuring more than 100 of the newest and rarest beers from breweries around the state – which expanded to a two-day festival this year.
Heacox recently celebrated his fifth anniversary with Opening Nights Performing Arts, which showcases Tallahassee as a cultural tourism destination. Since joining the organization, he has secured acclaimed artists for the series–including Tony Bennett and Patti LaBelle last season and Smokey Robinson and Lily Tomlin this season – and has expanded ticket sales to 26 states, 132 Florida cities and more than 2,000 patrons living outside the area.
The awards have been presented annually since 2002. In 2003, the award was officially named “The Thomas A. Waits Distinguished Leadership Award” to honor this prominent resident and former executive director of the Florida Hotel & Motel Association. Waits dedicated his career to economic development through tourism in Florida. In 2010, the award expanded to recognize one individual and one organization that made a significant impact on tourism in Tallahassee-Leon County and reflected the ideals and leadership of tourism excellence.