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Pinellas enjoying record tourism season
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Photo courtesy Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater
Beautiful sunsets and white sandy beaches are just two of the amenities that attract visitors to Pinellas County.
Tourism is up for the first half of 2014, according to a report from Research Data Services, presented by President and CEO Walter Klages to the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council Aug. 20.

The report shows that 589,300 visitors stayed overnight during the month of June – up from 562,800 in 2013. The economic impact was more than $720.5 million, an 8 percent increase.

Occupancy at the county’s lodging accommodations was 80.4 percent in June compared to 76.6 percent in 2013. The average daily rate was $123.15 up from $114.87 last year. Revenue per room was $99.01 compared to $87.99 in 2013.

June continues the upward trend enjoyed by the county’s tourism industry. From January through June, more than 3.2 million visited Pinellas, compared to just over 3 million for the same period in 2013. They spent more than $2.4 billion, up from in excess of $2.2 billion last year – an increase of 8.8 percent.

Occupancy rates – often referred to as heads in beds by local officials – have outpaced 2013 every month for the first six months of 2014.

More families are visiting this year, 48.8 percent of visitors compared to 44.2 percent last year. Declines were recorded for couples traveling without children and singles. More than 60 percent took a plane with the majority flying in to Tampa International, 56.8 percent. Just over 8 percent arrived at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport, which also is enjoying a record season.

The airport reported an increase in passengers of 19 percent in July and a 22 percent year-to-date increase over 2013. The majority of travelers used Allegiant Air, which recently announced the addition three more non-stop flights to the 32 already offered.

Allegiant will begin service to Concord, North Carolina Nov. 13; Belleville, Illinois Nov. 19; and Bloomington, Illinois Nov. 21.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium continues to see an increase with 16.1 percent of visitors taking a trip to the attraction compared to 11.5 percent in 2013. Fort De Soto saw a slight uptick in traffic, 8.8 percent of visitors compared to 8.4 percent last year. Tarpon Springs recorded slightly fewer visits thus far this year, 6.9 percent in 2013 compared to 6.6 in 2014.

In June, the top ranked “feeder” market was Tampa-St. Petersburg. A feeder market is the area from which hotel guests originate. The county’s second ranked feeder market was New York followed by the Greater Orlando Area, then Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

A survey of visitors to the area shows continued satisfaction with 97.3 percent saying they were satisfied with their trip to Pinellas so far in 2014 – up from 97.3 percent last year.

Search for a new director

County Administration Mark Woodard updated the TDC about the search for a new director of the Convention Visitor Bureau. D.T. Minich announced July 28 that he had accepted the top job at the Kissimmee Convention Visitors Bureau. Minich served as Pinellas County’s CVB executive direction since 2007. His new job began Aug. 15.

At previous commission meetings, commissioners have discussed the possibility of increasing the CVB director’s pay scale to attract more candidates for Minich’s job. David Downing currently is serving as interim director.
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