Lee County VCB Holds Annual Tourism Summit

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The Lee County Tourist Development Council  (TDC) held a combined monthly meeting last week in conjunction with the Visitors and Convention Bureau (VCB) Team Tourism Annual Sales & Marketing Summit. One might summarize the report by the quote from Tamara Piggott VCB Exec Director.

“We’re seeing some of the most incredible gains in the history of this destination.”

For the quarter ending September 30, paid accommodations, visitor expenditures, number of visitors and tourist bed tax collections, were all up, indicating one of best summers ever for local tourism. The areas for a watchful eye include the slight decline of available room nights, triggered last quarter by a decline in available space in the RV Parks and Campground category. The other area was a repeat of the prior quarter’s Customer Satisfaction survey indicating slightly fewer visitors were very satisfied, which seems to support the other data describing a more affluent and demanding visitor. However, 92% of respondents did indicate they were satisfied or very satisfied, which is a very commendable satisfaction level.

Keynote speaker for the Annual Summit was Peter Yesawich, Vice Chairman of MMGY Global, the travel and tourism marketing firm that has served Lee County for years. Yesawich presented the summarized findings of his firms “Portrait of the American Traveler” yearly report. This industry leading report aims at learning higher income (over 50K annual income) travelers’ future thinking about travel, including where, when, how and the traveler’s decision making process.

The big takeaways of this report are how positive our area is viewed via this survey’s results, and how the primary traveler age group has shifted from Baby Boomers (ages 50-68) to Millennnials (ages 18-34). Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers and scored the highest in their intent and ability to travel to SW Florida.

While the survey numbers indicate many positive things about this new dominant travel age group, there are also issues with the group that will require a shift in thought process for everyone involved in the business of tourism. In the past, our location of beautiful Gulf waters and white sand beaches along with high level of accommodations, food, beverage and entertainment options has earned the loyalty and repeat business of the Boomer generation. The scary reality reported by the MGGY survey is Millennials are more adventurous, have a longer travel “bucket list”, and are less likely to stay in traditional resort hotel rooms, nor return as often, even with a reported excellent vacation experience.

Fort Myers Beach continued to be the leading source for Lee County tourism bed tax collections, accounting for $5 million of the nearly $38 million collected for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015. For the coming year, bed tax collections will be spent by statute: 53.6% – advertising and promotion (VCB operations and Lee County Sports Authority operations)
26.4% – beach and shoreline improvements and maintenance
20.0% – stadium debt service (includes debit payments for the Lee County Sports Complex and JetBlue Park, as well as major maintenance for both the City of Palms Park and the Lee County Sports Complex

Bob Layfield