Earlier this month, Lee Daniel, Director of the Leon County Division of Tourism Development, announced year-end results for the local tourism/visitor segment of the local economy and unveiled future plans during the annual marketing roll out.
As is with most local government press releases, the information was positive.
However, TR had questions about information provide by the Tallahassee Democrat based on the press release.
Tamaryn Waters, a reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat, wrote that over the last five years tourism in Leon county increased by 40%. The exact quote is listed below.
More visitors flocked to Tallahassee and pumped money into restaurants, hotels and activities over the last five years than ever before, resulting in a 40-percent increase in local tourism.
Given the fact that airline traffic is down over the last two years and job growth has been up then flat then down, TR was puzzled by the 40% increase in tourism.
Since then, TR has taken an in-depth look at the tourism/visitor information by reviewing publicly available data and talking with local officials and tourism consultants.
This is what we learned.
First, there is no data available that shows tourism increased 40%.
Second, consultants told TR their focus is on visitors, not tourists, when evaluating the economic impact of travelers to our community. In other words, the economic analysis does not differentiate between business visitors and people who are here for a concert at Cascades Park.
Third, due to various methodologies, it is difficult to compare certain types of information, like the number of visitors, across different years.
So, what independent information can give an indication of how Tallahassee is fairing as a “destination.”
Visit Tallahassee provided TR with a consultant survey that estimates hotel occupancy. The chart below shows annual occupancy rates.
TR also pulled the taxable sales data for lodging in Leon county from the Florida Department of Revenue. The chart below shows the taxable sales for lodging in Leon county from 2009 -2014.
The information is consistent with the hotel occupancy information provided above. Taxable sales for lodging increased from $79.8 million in 2009 to 103.8 million in 2014. That is an increase of approximately 30%.
The information shows that the number of visitors to Leon county has steadily increased over the last five years. It is important to note that it is difficult to determine if these visitors are here for business, tourism, or a football game.
However, the bottom line is that while a number of economic indicators are headed in the wrong direction in Leon county, the number of visitors to Leon county has increased over the last five years and that has provided a much needed positive economic impact for a number of local businesses.