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Early tourism numbers shatter last year’s total

Like a child first encountering an array of gifts beneath
the tree on Christmas morning, it is a challenge to know where to start when it
comes to unwrapping the latest tourism numbers.

That is because so many are in record-breaking territory. based
on a report shared by Tourism Development Council Director John Solomon at the
county commission meeting Tuesday.

The month of June – the last month in which the Florida
Department of Revenue has reported back to the county monies from the lodging
tax – posted the highest monthly total ever, in any month, since the voters
first approved the 2 percent tax to begin during the 2005-06 fiscal year.

June’s roughly $327,000 total, 15 percent above June 2020,
was only the second ever $300,000 month, the only other in June 2019.

In amassing that number, for just the first nine months of
the fiscal year, the county snapped the $1.43 million total amassed over all 12
months of the previous fiscal year.

And bear in mind that was all with the 16-year-long 2
percent tax on all short-term rentals in place.

In July, that 2 percent went up to 3 percent, after the
county commission gave its unanimous blessing to the increase earlier this

With a record year already established, it now looks to be very
likely the lodging tax will meet or exceed the $2 million mark when the fiscal
year ends with Sept. 2021 numbers, to be reported sometime around the
end of the calendar year.

To show how likely the $2 million number will be reached,
consider that if July, August and September were to all remain at 2 percent,
and were unchanged from last year’s monthly numbers, the TDC would yield roughly
$2.02 million for the current fiscal year.

There is little doubt that it will exceed that, and based on
factoring in 3 percent, could go as high as $2.3 million.

Solomon’s appearance before the commission included him
grasping in his hands the “Henry” award that he and TDC Chairman Ricky Jones received at
Visit Florida’s annual Governor’s Conference in Hollywood Sept. 8.

Franklin County received the state’s highest tourism
marketing award, in the rural marketing category, for the Florida’s Forgotten
Coast mobile app, an application that was Jones’ idea that Solomon then developed,
incidentally at a lower cost than would have been the case had the TDC brought
in an outside contractor to  do the work.

Launched in Nov. 2020, the mobile app helps visitors access
information about area amenities, events, lodging, restaurants, shopping and
outdoor recreation opportunities with just a click on their phone. It also includes
a push notification feature that notifies users of weather-related information
such as double red flag beach alerts or emergency information within the

This is the first Henry award for Franklin County and its fourth Flagler
award in the past two years.

After hearing words of congratulations from Commissioners
Jessica Ward and Bert Boldt, Solomon noted that part of the lodging tax
increase was due to the use of the mobile app.

“We brought more money into the
county,” he said. “What a great team we have at the TDC that loves their community, and works hard to promote in its best light.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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