Tourist taxes continue to pour in at 10 percent over 2012, so $2 million of that bonus money will be targeted for special stimulus to draw visitors to Palm Beach County.
County Tourist Development Council Executive Director Glenn Jergensen told TDC board members Thursday that bed tax revenues were up 10 percent in June over 2012. The $2.1 million collected through a 5 percent tax on lodging — the majority comes from hotel rooms — keeps the county on track to reach a milestone this year of $30 million in tourism taxes.
That would make Palm Beach County eligible for an additional 1 percent tax on hotel rooms, known among Florida tourism leaders as the sixth penny. It’s only available to high-impact counties that bring in $600 million in taxable revenues on lodging.
Jergensen said it may be premature to talk about that new revenue stream, since hitting the $30 million is not guaranteed this year. Weather or economic conditions could hit tourism receipts before the books are closed out.
So before county leaders talk further about tapping into new funds, they are going to spend some of this year’s largesse.
Jergensen put out a call to the bed tax agencies — the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sports Commission, Film and Television Commission and Cultural Council — to come up with one-time projects designed to attract visitors. Those projects would only be marketing and promotional, not infrastructure projects, he said.
“We’ve heard over the last couple of years that we don’t put enough into marketing and promotion,” he said. So this initiative seeks to address that.
He plans to tap into the pot of money held in reserve for capital funds, which is also gaining more money than expected, for these one-time expenditures.
Jergensen said the agencies must submit their proposals in September. The proposals with the most “bang for the buck” in room-night generation and media coverage will be chosen, he said.
Board member Don Dufresne, an attorney with ties to the equestrian community and former Sports Commission president, questioned how the agencies are determining that more promotional money is needed. The winter season is near capacity, he said, so the off season is where efforts need to be aimed.
“If there’s a need,” he said, “show me the need.”.