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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Expert in Tourism Recommends For TDC To Change Focus

Focus on mission of increasing room nights for area inns, bringing visitors to Jackson County By Sid Riley
Basic recommendations of guest speaker, Tom Waits-
● Reduce amount of revenue going into fund for civic center.
● Spend more on advertising what area has to offer.
● Focus on events which increase overnight visitors.
● Funding for events on co-op basis with businesses is ok.
● Increase level of post-event evaluations from hotels.
● Develop 10 year plan with objectives and benchmarks.
● Increase participation in research, using college programs.
A special joint workshop meeting of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and the Jackson County Tourist Development Council was held on Tuesday, May 26. The purpose of this meeting was to assist in development of a new ten year development plan for the TDC, and to receive the benefit of the advice given by Mr. Tom Waits, who has a varied and rich lifetime experience working with Florida tourism development. He is the past Chairman of the state tourism function, Visit Florida.
The meeting began with a detailed overview of the history and major activities of the TDC since it was begun in 1999. Visitors staying in hotels within Jackson County must have 11.5% added to their room charges for taxes. This covers the local 7.5% sales tax, plus 4% which has been approved as a "bed tax" for funds which are to be used for local tourism development. 2% of this 4% tax is currently set aside for building a fund which is to be used for the future construction of a Civic Center near Marianna. That fund is now approaching $800,000 in total.
The TDC normally receives over $300,000 per year in tax receipts, half of which is set aside for the convention center fund, and half of which is available for promotion of tourism. Mr. Waits recommended that for the present, the amount for the civic center fund should be reduced to 25% of the receipts instead of 50%. This would then make more funds available for larger, more significant advertising campaigns. He also strongly encouraged the group to seek out opportunities to co-op with large state advertising programs, and with industry programs.
Wait stated that events such as horse shows and similar events where the visitors normally bring trucks with sleeping compartments should not be funded, since they are not adding to the activities at the hotels, which are generating the funds for their use. He felt that sporting events such as baseball and basketball tournaments are good investments. He also felt that the program should broaden its advertising about our natural attractions such as the Caverns Park, Lake Seminole, and our beautiful springs and streams.

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