Lee County tourism projects $21 million budget

Published on : Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lee CountyIslandology” is an advertising and marketing campaign that will focus on the unique experiential travel options found throughout Lee County. Lee County tourism promoters have drafted a $21 million budget for the fiscal year beginning in October. With a reserves balance projected at more than $23 million, the county’s Tourist Development Council is of the opinion whether some of that money should be tapped sooner than later. They’d like to use it to help attract more visitors.

 
The tourism council has a goal of stashing 20 percent of annual bed tax revenues in a reserve account, intended to handle unexpected emergency needs. Meeting that goal would require only about $8 million.

 
“Another year has gone by. The money continues to grow. Doing nothing, in my opinion, is unacceptable,” said Kevin Ruane, tourism council member and city of Sanibel mayor.

 
Lee County’s tourism promotion efforts run on revenues from the Tourist Development Tax or “bed tax,” a 5 percent levy charged on short-term accommodations. Since 2010, annual bed tax collections have increased from almost $23 million to more than $39.6 million in fiscal 2016. Promoting the area to potential overnight visitors is important to the area’s economy. Tourism is almost a $3-billion-a-year business in Lee, with the hospitality industry accounting for an estimated 57,000 jobs here.

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