Friday, May 16, 2008

Marginal growth in Florida Tourism - May 16, 2008

Here is the news on Florida Tourism, and here are my comments.

I would say that 2% increase in tourists from overseas is negligible.
These are the big spenders, who heavily weigh on our hotels occupancy, high-end restaurants and entertainment business, and potential investment.
With a weak dollar that has doubled the Euro's value if we compare it to a few years ago, and a Canadian dollar that has revaluated more than 50%, we would think that Florida tourism would be booming. The released anemic figures say otherwise.

One explanation that comes to my mind is the growing reputation that the US, and especially Florida, have been nurturing for the past few years, as an unfriendly destination, with heavy-handed officers at immigration airport counters. I have got this impression from a couple of customers and from what I read sometimes in the news, there is some truth in it.
In all truth, most foreign visitors love Florida and its infinite possibilities. Adequate investments in tourism promotion have always yielded uncountable benefits. But they should be consistent and sufficient.

I believe that international buyers are a principal source of business for many realtors here. Tourism is always the first contact of a potential buyer with our beautiful state, and is often followed by an investment in real estate. Do we need to pamper them? You bet.

Do we need to actively promote tourism to Florida? No discussion.

Here is the text of the article published today in the Tampa Tribune

Despite Economy, State Tourism Rises 3.4%

By CATHERINE DOLINSKI - The Tampa Tribune - Published: May 16, 2008

TALLAHASSEE - Rising gas prices and a slumping economy did not dissuade visitors from traveling to Florida during the first three months of 2008, when the state's tourism numbers rose 3.4 percent.

The same growth remains to be seen, however, in spending by tourists, which came in below state projections for two of the same three months.

Gov. Charlie Crist held a news conference on Thursday to announce that 23.8 million people visited the state in January, February and March. That number includes rising tourism among international visitors - a 2 percent overall increase in overseas travelers, and 6.6 percent increase in Canadian visitors. Additionally, Florida residents made 1.2 million more in-state trips over those taken during the same period last year. The rise in in-state travel, attributed largely to high gas prices keeping people closer to home, represents a 10.5 percent increase.

Crist lauded the state's online and television marketing efforts for boosting the tourism numbers and, presumably, spending by tourists.

"To have that many more people visiting the Sunshine State - they're spending money, they're going out to dinner, they're visiting our tourist attractions, and that has to have a positive impact," he said.

So far, however, state sales tax collections have not kept pace with the rise in tourism.

According to the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research, tourism-related sales tax collections were down 2.9 percent, or $10.9 million, below state projections for January, and down 2.4 percent, or $8.3 million, below projections for February.

The news was better in March, when tourism-related sales tax yielded 1.5 percent or $5.4 million more than expected, though overall sales tax collections were down $47 million from monthly projections. Results are not yet available for April.

Those collections would be down further had the state not invested in attracting more tourists, said Winter Park Rep. Dean Cannon, who oversees the House council on transportation and economic development. To that end, he defended the Legislature's decision this spring to spend about $2 million more of the state's general revenue on Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm, despite a shortage of funds overall.

"Tourism dollars are sort of like the carbohydrates of the Florida economy," Cannon said, while the state's investments in high-tech business are the "proteins."

"I think that it was important to do whatever we can to secure short-term economic boost that can be derived from tourism and visitors to Florida, while we let some of the more slower-growing but higher-dollar projects that we've been planting to mature a little bit," he said.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos,
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