Gulf Oil Spill May Impact Hotel Tax Collections
Even though cancellations have been rampant at many beachside hotels, the true measure of hotel occupancy is the money collected by so-called "bed taxes." And it may be too early to tell the effect of the Gulf spill on hotels in Pinellas County.
Bed taxes are collected on every hotel room stay in Pinellas County. New data shows amount of taxes increased by 2.5 percent in April, before dropping by 2 percent in May. That's when the spreading Gulf oil slick start causing concern to Suncoast hoteliers.
David Downing of Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater says it's still too early to tell the effect of the spill locally.
"These are seasonal variations which move from March and April - which are our highest seasons - to May, which is a slightly slower time of year," he says. "Our concern is about the end of summer. Our concern is about the long-term perception as Pinellas County, St. Petersburg-Clearwater and about all of Florida as a viable beach destination. This has been a long-term event, and it's going to have a long-term impact."
Downing says hotel cancellations surged in May, before tapering off by the end of the month.
"What's difficult to gauge is when the phone's not ringing," says Downing. "We can't tell when people don't even pick up the phone to book that they've cancelled. So this is what our concern is right now - that when the phone is not ringing, that is a very difficult thing for us to gauge."
Just over $1.15 million allocated from BP has been set aside for a new advertising campaign. Downing says that doubles their summertime advertising campaign, called "We're Wide Open."
©2015 WUSF. All rights reserved.