Tourist tax dollars trending up, but flat for the year

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Tourist tax dollars for Indian River County were up in May of this year compared to last year by nearly 3 percent, marking five straight months of increases in the money hotels collect from overnight guests for the county coffers.

However, for the fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, 2009, the total tax collected is slightly down due to poor showings in November and December of last year. The total realized through May 2010 is $974,409 just off from the $974,630 collected through May 2009.


Room bookings were off over 16 percent the last two months of last year as the county struggled along with the rest of the country to attract tourist dollars.

“Nationally the tourism industry is off,” said Susan Hunt, Director of Tourism for the Indian River Chamber of Commerce. “Room rates are lower in order to get people into the hotels.”

Tourist Tax revenue was down over $33,000 from October through December of this fiscal year compared to last, but increases over the last five months have all but wiped that out. The county has compiled figures through May.

By far the best month was April, during the heat of the RussMatt baseball season when college and high school teams from up north came to get in some spring training at Dodgertown. Revenues for April were up almost 10 percent from the year before, $123,585 to $112,402 in April of 2009.

“Every month has been an improvement this year,” said County Administrator Joe Baird. “We are doing 3 percent better than last year over the last five months.”

Hunt said the county has been aggressively courting specialized groups to come to Indian River County and recently hosted a group of wedding planners to entice them to consider Indian River County for their clients.

The Chamber of Commerce Web site lists 29 venues for weddings in the County from Bethel Creek House to the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

The chamber is also pursuing what Hunt called the small to medium-sized meeting market — groups from 10 to 1,500 to hold their events in Indian River County.

“The last couple of months we’ve been tapping into that market,” Hunt said. “We are going to our first small meetings trade show in Tallahassee in the middle of this month.”

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