To the editor:
As we near the end of the calendar year, it's natural to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. Our local tourism industry has celebrated much success in the past few years, including two years of record-high tax revenue, and I look toward the future with an optimistic belief that our industry will continue to thrive.
In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, we generated a record-high $26.5 million in tourist tax on paid accommodations. The new record is a 9.2 percent increase over last year's record-breaking $24.2 million in collections and a 21.2 percent rise from fiscal year 2008-2009 collections of $21.8 million.
Between 2009 and 2012, all key performance indicators have increased: visitation, 11.1 percent; occupancy, 7.2 percent; ADR, 4.5 percent; RevPAR, 12.1 percent; and occupied rooms, 9 percent. These numbers speak to how hard the entire industry has worked for our collective success.
We continue to promote the destination in an uncertain economy, but as I look into the proverbial crystal ball, I see our success continuing. I believe the key will be our effort to be more and more strategic in how we spend our marketing dollars to attract visitors.
For example, we are among the first destinations to join a co-op program with Brand USA, the U.S. marketing body. For every dollar we spent with them this year in international marketing, Brand USA kicked in more than $4 to expand the buy. The program has added an additional $837,250 to help us attract international travelers
On the domestic front, we are finishing up a two-month program to promote the destination in key markets in the Midwest and Northeast corridor. In November and December, we partnered with Lonely Planet and retail newsstand company Hudson News to promote The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in 63 airports. The promotion includes store displays and customer giveaways.
In addition, the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau recently was awarded a $500,000 marketing grant from BP to promote tourism and sustainable seafood. The additional infusion of cash into the marketing budget certainly will help stretch our promotional reach.
Partnerships are always more successful than single endeavors, which is why we are so excited about the success of our current co-op program with local partners. When we launched the program in October, 56 partners signed up in the first 90 seconds! In all, the number of participating partners is up 45 percent, and in the first month, we've already increased the revenue generated by 100 percent. As you know, this revenue goes right back into our co-op budget to generate additional opportunities for our partners.
Lastly, we continue to increase the percentage of advertising we do in digital mediums because the technology allows us to be more and more targeted in communicating with a specific market of travelers and provides more bang for our buck.
Given the success of our partnerships and our effort to be more strategic with each advertising dollar we spend, I'm very optimistic about continuing to grow visitation to our destination in the coming years.