World view: Collier tourism director expects more international visitors this summer

Jack Wert

Jack Wert

— Summer looks sunny for the tourism industry in Collier County.

At an industry briefing today, Jack Wert, the county's tourism director, plans to share his predictions for a bright summer, including an expected increase in group meetings.

In the summer, most visitors come from other parts of Florida, including the east coast. This year, the county could see a jump in European visitation, which has been on the rise.

"International visitors should be up 10 percent or more over last summer – and last summer was a really good year for international," said Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Wert is scheduled to give his state of the industry address today at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa.

In the first quarter, from January to March, visitation rose 7.8 percent year-over-year. Coming off a strong first quarter, Wert said, "Occupancies will continue to rise and we will continue to see a recovery in the average daily rate," through the rest of the year.

He's not going so far as to say the county will see a record number of visitors this year, but if the upward trend continues, it could beat last year's number.

Last year, the county saw nearly 1.5 million visitors, the highest number since the tourism bureau began tracking it about a decade ago. That was up 7.7 percent over 2010.

Tourism spending has been on the rise too, but hotel occupancies haven't seen a big spike, reflecting an increase in visitors staying in rental homes and condominiums.

During his talk, Wert plans to highlight the growing market for sports events. Last year, those events had a direct economic impact of $5 million, he said.

"Every year, that program has grown," Wert said.

The destination attracted more media coverage last year, with an estimated value of $4.1 million if it had been paid advertising. That was up from about $3 million in 2010. The estimates are based on a software tracking and evaluation tool, said JoNell Modys, the bureau's public relations manager.

"The system doesn't capture all articles that we've helped generate, particularly many international stories, so the actual number is higher, but we use what is within that evaluation system," she said.

Wert's speech is part of an annual event that coincides with National Tourism Week. The event, which will draw a crowd of about 200, includes a luncheon and an awards ceremony that recognizes the county's tourism stars. Those stars will be announced today.

Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden

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