May 3, 2016 | Categories: Other
Tourism in Lee County does more for our community than most people realize. As tourism season winds down, and license plates from around the country drive away, it’s a good time to reflect on the impact.
Just look at last year’s numbers. Lee County hosted almost 5 million visitors in 2015 and they spent close to $3 billion. It’s a record-breaking amount and the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) is well on track to help generate another $3 billion by the end of 2016.
Our partners in lodging also experienced a bump in room nights and saw an increase in what guests were willing to pay.
Our airport traffic continued to soar, reaching an historic high in February and March 2016. Southwest Florida International Airport is one of the Top 10 busiest airports during the spring break travel season, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Despite impressive tourism growth, Lee County faced some challenges early in the year.
Unusually heavy rainfall during January and February within the Lake Okeechobee and Caloosahatchee watersheds resulted in higher than average fresh water ending up into the river and estuary. Under normal circumstances, this does not occur along our beaches during the height of season.
To help address these challenges, the VCB spent an additional $125,000 in advertising in digital and social media outlets; and recently hosted a webinar to brief frontline tourism staff about how to address guests’ concerns regarding these issues.
Other challenges faced by the tourism industry include the exchange rates in Canada and Germany, which aren’t as favorable as they have been. Yet we still believe in the strength of our international markets. Our international visitors from the United Kingdom and Canada are arriving with double digit increases compared to last year. German visitation also remains strong.
The VCB is entering next year’s budget planning with these and other challenges in mind. We’re continuing our work toward being the nation’s first Certified Guest Service Destination, which would make us the friendliest destination in the world. And we’re excited by the renovations we’re seeing in area lodging, a major crusade from our strategic plan and a contributing factor to tourism growth.
Looking ahead, we expect to see some new hotel development on the horizon, especially given conditions in that market sector. And we’ll continue to grow tourism responsibly, so that we simultaneously protect the natural assets that draw visitors to our shores each year.
Our tourism promotion efforts rely on local residents to assist us in being great ambassadors. Tourism brings jobs. Valuable bed tax dollars help us preserve our beaches and support our tourism partners. It’s not always easy to share our slice of paradise, but it’s worth it.
Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau
2201 Second St., Suite 600, Fort Myers, FL 33901