A campaign to launch year-round advertising of Collier County as a tourist destination began with the county’s tourism director campaigning for support from Naples and Marco Island officials Monday.
Jack Wert, Collier County’s tourism director, said in a presentation to Naples City Council on Monday morning, and Marco City Council in the afternoon, that year-round marketing and advertising is “essential to attract new and repeat visitors” to Collier County.
Marco Island City Council voted unanimously, 6-0, with Chairman Frank Recker absent, to show its support for increasing the tourist development tax from 4 percent to 5 percent to cover the cost of increased advertising.
Alternative advertising funding methods, which are to be considered by the Board of Collier County Commissioners, include reallocating some of the tourist taxes away from museums and/or beach renourishment, giving a higher percentage to advertising and marketing. Tourist taxes, or “bed taxes,” are dollars paid on tourist accommodations within the county
Naples City Council members did not reach a consensus about either raising the tourist tax or whether there should be year-round advertising. Naples council members will discuss, and likely vote on, a resolution regarding advertising and the increase on Wednesday.
The option of taking more money away from beach renourishment was not popular among Marco council members or Collier County Coastal Zone Management Director Gary McAlpin.
“We are for year-round advertising, but we don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” McAlpin said. “People come to Collier County for the beaches and the beach experience.”
The county’s 4 percent tourism development tax dedicates about $2 million a year to advertising. However, that money isn’t enough to compete with nearby destinations that have larger advertising budgets, Wert said.
The county in fiscal 2010 transferred $1 million from beach renourishment reserves to the advertising budget. A similar transfer — $1 million from the beach park facilities fund — will occur in fiscal 2011.
Wert said the county’s lodging association is split on the idea of increasing the tourist tax, but the idea is gaining ground in the business community.
Other options, he said, are to increase revenue by working with Collier County Tax Collector Larry Ray to collect taxes on short term rentals as well as collect all actual tourist development taxes due on internet sales. Taxes have been paid on net internet sales rather than gross sales, Wert said, contributing to more than $400,000 in would-be taxes lost last year.
Wert will be making similar presentations to 12 community groups before the matter is taken to a Nov. 1 meeting with Collier County commissioners.