Tourist tax collections drop in June, oil spill suspected culprit

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Tourist tax dollars for Indian River County took a nosedive in June, dropping 10.6 percent from a year ago with the gulf oil spill being cited as a contributing factor.

Even though oil from the British Petroleum rig never reached the Indian River County beaches, there were many computer models being shown in the media the showed oil rounding the tip of Florida and heading up the East coast.

 

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was right in that time frame,” County Budget Director Jason Brown said Wednesday at a meeting of the Tourist Development Council. “People were hearing don’t go to the beaches in Florida, you might see tar balls washing up.”

Tourist tax revenue for June, the latest figures that are available, came in at $84,735, down just over $10,000 from a year earlier. The drop broke a string of five straight months of increases and put the year to date total tourist tax revenue at $1,059,220, about one percent off from 2009 ($1,069,374).

“We definitely saw cancellations (in June),” said Costa d’Este Director of Operations, Monica Smiley. “The call volume just dropped off.”

Smiley did say bookings have picked up in July and August, but part of that was due to deals the hotel has put together to attract summer customers.

Another bright note from figures supplied by Susan Hunt, Director of Tourism for the Indian River Chamber of Commerce, was that average the average daily rate for all hotel rooms in the county was up 3.6 percent in June after five straight months of negative results.

Hunt said in her presentation, that one of the Chamber’s marketing efforts has been aimed at informing those in the tourism industry that that oil from the spill never reached Indian River County.

“The oil spill had an effect,” she said. “There was a lack of communication abroad that the spill wasn’t affecting our beaches.”

The board also heard from Raymond Nau of the Melbourne International Airport, who told the group that since February U.S. Airway has started flights into the airport, joining Delta Airlines.

He also said talks are underway for an undisclosed airline to begin non-stop service to Washington’s Dulles Airport and possibly non-stop service to the United Kingdom.

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