Rise in tourists brings 900 more jobs to Collier compared to a year ago

Scott McIntyre/Staff 
 Carol Iseberg, left, and her daughter Meagen Iseberg, both of Chicago, enjoy time on the beach at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club on Tuesday.

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Scott McIntyre/Staff Carol Iseberg, left, and her daughter Meagen Iseberg, both of Chicago, enjoy time on the beach at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club on Tuesday.

Watch "Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle" interview with Collier County tourism director Jack Wert. The video is available at naplesnews.com/newsmaker

— More visitors means more jobs in Collier County's tourism industry this year.

In October, there were 900 more people working directly in the leisure and hospitality sector in Collier County than a year ago. Last month, there were 22,700 direct jobs in the industry, up from 21,800 last year in October.

Employment has been higher every month this year, peaking at 26,200 jobs in March at the tail-end of the last busy tourist season, according to Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity.

Walter Klages, president of Tampa-based Research Data Services Inc., shared the employment numbers with the Tourist Development Council at its monthly meeting on Monday, calling them impressive.

"It is not only impressive, but compared to the other destinations along the Gulf Coast, I can tell you (that) you are doing darn well," he said.

In total, the industry generated and supported 32,000 jobs in Collier County last fiscal year, up 6.3 percent year-over-year. In Lee County, the tourism industry's annual economic impact is $2.7 billion, helping to employ more than 52,000 workers — or one of every five jobs in the county.

Analyzing Collier's tourism numbers, Klages pointed out other positive year-over-year trends for fiscal 2011-12, which ended Sept. 30:

■ Visitors staying in hotels and other vacation rentals directly spent more than $943 million, up 12.5 percent.

■ The total economic effect of tourism reached more than $1.4 billion, up 12.5 percent.

■ Visitor sales and gas tax revenue grew to nearly $89.8 million, up 12.2 percent.

"All of these are very strong, very, very powerful numbers," Klages said.

In October, 123,100 visitors stayed in hotels and other vacation rentals in Collier, up 4.9 percent over the same month last year, according to the latest report by Research Data Services. Those visitors spent $62.1 million in the destination, with a total impact of $92.5 million, up 10.2 percent from a year ago.

Last month, the average occupancy was up and so was the average daily rate and the revenue per available room.

The county saw a significant jump in visitors from the Midwest and European markets in October.

From the Midwest, there were 18,219 visitors last month, up 11.6 percent year-over-year.

From Europe, there were 27,944 travelers in October, up more than 20 percent from a year ago. This is despite the rising value of the U.S. dollar, which hasn't had any effect on international visitation in Collier — despite having driven up the cost of travel to this country, Klages said.

Collier also has seen more visitors from Canada this year. In October, there were 2,954 of them, up 14.4 percent from the same month last year. Klages pointed out it's a small market, but still an important one.

From January to October, Collier saw more than 1.3 million visitors, up 5.9 percent from the same months last year. The economic impact from tourism is up 11.6 percent so far this year.

"What's really important to us, of course, is to bring more people into our destination," Klages said. "That is true, but on a completely different level, isn't it really the residual . . . what is left in the county's economy that really matters?"

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