Almost double from 2020.
The Tourism Development Department (TDD) of Okaloosa County, which oversees visit Destin Fort Walton Beach reported huge growth in bed tax collections from 2020.
The numbers were met with audible gasps from the several hundred attendees at the Niceville Chamber of Commerce’s second Tuesday breakfast on May 10th.
That means more money for lifeguards, sheriff’s deputies, improvements on roads and destination beautification. Of the $23.5 million dollars in the tourism department’s budget – 10% goes to public safety, according to TDD director Jennifer Adams.
Some of that money will get spent in Niceville since voters approved the bed tax expansion in October of 2021. The bed tax expansion allows the tourism department to collect hotel taxes in the entire county – and use the money anywhere in the county as well. Previously, the money collected from bed tax was only collected in Destin, Okaloosa Island and parts of Fort Walton Beach. In the past, the money collected in those areas could only be spent in those areas. Therefore, cities outside of the district, like Niceville, Valparaiso and Crestview missed out on many of the benefits of tourism – while still bearing some of the costs.
The bed tax expansion brings in a vast amount of money to the county coffers – and will mean a big change in how Okaloosa County’s Tourism Department will market the entire area.
“Post oil spill, everyone discounted [hotel rooms and attraction costs] and now they are learning that they don’t have to discount [in order to be competitive],” Tourism Department Director Jennifer Adams told Niceville Chamber Members.
In addition to ending the perception of Destin as a ‘Discount Destination’ – the TDD has changed the marketing angle served up to families across the nation who are looking to take a vacation.
“Read this statistic, because if you haven’t seen it – it’s shocking,” said Adams, “More than 50% of the nation’s children spend less time outdoors than the nation’s prison inmates. Moreover, 49% of their parents don’t know how to play with their children. Then came the pandemic. So, we’ve formulated the brand, and our mission is to get kids outside, on the water and to get their adventurous side to grow.”
Adams says that the marketing arm of the tourism department aims to entice millennial moms to bring their families on a vacation in Destin – and to Niceville. Adams will host a virtual area tour that will be hosted from the Emerald Grande in Destin – but will feature footage from Turkey Creek in Niceville.
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