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Pinellas County tourism surged in 2016 despite challenges of Zika, Pulse shooting and more

Pinellas County tourism surged in 2016 despite challenges of Zika, Pulse shooting and more

  • The agency did not announce specific marketing campaigns for the year.
  • Pinellas County tourism surged in 2016 despite challenges of Zika, Pulse shooting and more 01/24/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 8:56am] Photo reprints | Article reprints
  • Despite challenges like Zika and economic turmoil abroad last year, tourism surged in Pinellas County.
  • CLEARWATER – It was the year of many hurdles for Florida tourism.
  • Visit St. Pete/Clearwater posted its largest boost in tourism tax dollars in years, jumping from $39.3 million in 2015 to a whopping $49.5 million generated in the 2016 fiscal year.

CLEARWATER — It was the year of many hurdles for Florida tourism.

@TB_Times: Pinellas County tourism surged in 2016 despite challenges of Zika, Pulse shooting and more

Zika, the Pulse nightclub shooting, algae blooms and economic turmoil in two of the state’s largest visitor markets: Brazil and the United Kingdom.

And yet, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater posted its largest boost in tourism tax dollars in years, jumping from $39.3 million in 2015 to a whopping $49.5 million generated in the 2016 fiscal year. In 2011, it was just $25 million.

“We are on track to surpass that this coming year,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long at the agency’s annual tourism marketing meeting, held Monday evening at the new Wyndham Grand hotel on Clearwater Beach.

A presentation by the agency’s executive director, David Downing, highlighted a focus in existing markets of Chicago, New York City and Orlando, attempting to attract not just residents from those cities, but the millions of tourists who are there.

VSPC is also working to lay the groundwork in China, despite the lack of a direct flight to Florida.

The agency did not announce specific marketing campaigns for the year. In past years it has sent out yetis in bathing suits on Pinellas beaches to create a viral marketing campaign in northern cities and partnered with Uber in Chicago to promote the region by giving out free flights.

However, Downing expressed an underlying concern about continued public funding for the tourism efforts.

“It’s open season for Visit Florida right now,” he said of the agency’s statewide counterpart, which is battling with state legislatures after an unpopular $1 million deal with rapper Pitbull. VSPC does not receive funding from Visit Florida, but partners with it on international campaigns, Downing said.

Pinellas County tourism surged in 2016 despite challenges of Zika, Pulse shooting and more

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