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Lodging tax yields half-million dollar month

Franklin County’s lodging tax posted its first
half-million-dollar month in July, more than double the monthly total of one
year ago.

The more than $551,000 total represented a nearly $300,000 increase
over the roughly $253,000 showing in July 2020.





The large increase was due in large part to the fact that
July 2021 was the first full month in which the lodging tax on short-term
rentals stood at 3 percent, a 50 percent increase to the 2 percent that had
been in effect since the Tourist Development Council tax was first approved by
voters, and implemented in fiscal year 2005-6.

But even if the lodging tax had not been increased to 3
percent following a unanimous vote of the county commission earlier this year,
the July 2021 total still would have gone up by 145 percent, rather than the 217
percent that was achieved.

In his appearance at the county commission meeting Tuesday
morning, TDC Director John Solomon introduced the team that comprises the vendors
– Tana Kendrick, with 2K Web Group, for web media; Cindy Clark, with Bay Media,
for print media; and Royce Rolstad, with FCTV, for video.

He also introduced Deb Davis, the TDC’s financial director; Jean
Lane, the chief information specialist; and Welcome Center staffers Nancy
Hodgson and Becca Sapienza.

“This team is not just the administration and the vendors,”
Solomon said. “This team includes you, the county commissioners, and the nine
volunteers on the TDC board, as well as our lodging providers and last but not
least our hospitality workers in Franklin County.

“The TDC team can show and tell people how wonderful it is
here on the Forgotten Coast, but the hospitality workers are who keep people
coming back year after year,” he said.

Solomon recounted the history of the 32 months since the
Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce began administering the TDC in Jan. 2019.

“We were already a month behind after Hurricane Michael came
in the first month of that 2018-19 fiscal year and this team stepped up and
started the ‘open for business’ campaign and finished off that fiscal year 7.4 percent
above the previous year’s tourism numbers,” he said.

In the 2019-20 fiscal year, whose second half was enormously
impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, “this team stayed with the task at hand and,
even after being shut down to visitors for almost two months, finished the year
off with a 2.5 percent increase over the year before, being one of, if not the
only, county in Florida with a tourism increase for that year,” Solomon said.

“I have joked with (Commission Chairman Ricky Jones) that I
would love to see what this team could do in a normal year, no hurricanes or
pandemics,” he said.

As of July, the fiscal year bed tax total is running more
than a half-million dollars ahead of last year’s $1.43 million total.

September and October, the last two months of the fiscal
year, are typically among the top five busiest months of the year, and are likely
to bring in another half-million dollars.

“The numbers speak volumes but during the past two years I
am proud to say this team has also won four state tourism awards and this year
brought home what is considered the Academy Award of tourism, the Henry Flagler
award,” Solomon said.



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