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More rooms in Sarasota boost bed tax collections

More rooms in Sarasota boost bed tax collections

G.G. Rigsby | Aug 6, 2001

You could say Sarasota County is riding on a hospitality high.

The county's bed tax collections surpassed the $1 million mark for the first time ever in March. By the end of next year, the county will have nearly 1,000 new hotel rooms.

"And it's impossible to count all the upgrades, remodeling and renovations in existing rooms," said Virginia Haley, executive director of the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The challenge will be maintaining that high in a slowing economy, Haley said.

She said hotels will have to focus on reinforcing existing markets and building new business.

Toward that end, the CVB is revamping its Web site -- which can be reached at http://www.sarasotafl.org -- and working on next year's marketing plan. It also has taken the first steps toward forming a Sarasota County Sports Commission.

The sports commission, a committee of the bureau's board of directors, will help organizations that want to bring sporting events to Sarasota County. The commission will help those groups bid on tournaments, offer tips on working with hoteliers and create models for fund raising.

"This niche segment of the travel market has strong potential for significant tourist development in Sarasota County, especially for our smaller, mainland motels and hotels," Haley said.

Welcome visitors

Eight destinations in Florida are among the 40 places in the United States most visited by overseas travelers. And Tampa-St. Petersburg was No. 13 on that list.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that nationwide, Orlando ranked third, Miami fourth and Tampa-St. Petersburg 13th. They were followed by Fort Lauderdale, which ranked 17th, the Florida Keys 26th, West Palm Beach 31st and Fort Myers and Melbourne tied for 36th.

Overall, Florida attracted over 6 million visitors from overseas in 2000, an increase of nearly 4 percent. Only California had more overseas visitors with 6.3 million.

California's share of the market rose by 2 percentage points.

Florida's national market share of overseas visitors was 23.2 percent, compared with California's 24.5 percent.

Taking the train

Even though it's been three years since Tampa's Union Station was refurbished, the 1912 depot has yet to find a niche.

Only one train passes through the station daily -- the Amtrak Silver Palm that travels between Miami and New York.

The group managing the train depot can envision the state's high-speed rail passing through. Or they can see a train linking Orlando's tourist theme parks and Pinellas County beaches. And some can see the station serving as a hub for the 2012 Olympics.

If any of those things come true, the folks who make it happen are the new board of directors of Tampa Union Station Preservation and Redevelopment Inc. They are: Terri Bishop, Sandy Cedola, Ed Crawford, H. Linwood Gilbert Jr., Danny Harmon, Jim Herron, Jim Langston, Michael Mekstraitis, Jim Shephard, Leonard F. Tria Jr. and Ed Turanchik.

Retreating to ecotourism

Dump the fish and take on a more profitable venture -- ecotourism.

That's what the owners of a former fish camp on the Hillsborough River are doing.

The Oak Haven Fish Camp is now the Oak Haven River Retreat. It has two cottages, each complete with air conditioning, a microwave and dishwasher. The retreat also offers canoe and kayak rentals by the hour, half-day and full day.

Group and senior discounts are available. A guided sunrise canoe trip is scheduled for the third Saturday of each month through October, for $12 per person including breakfast. For more information, see http://www.oakhavenriverretreat.com.

Awards honor arts

The Tampa Bay Business Committee for the Arts Inc. will give awards for the second year in a row to a business, a business volunteer and an artist or educator who made a big impact on arts in Tampa Bay. The committee gives the "Business of the Arts" award to a company that offered special project assistance, sponsorships, loaned personnel or donated services and products.

Winners will be announced Nov. 8 at a gala at the Hyatt Regency Westshore.

The committee is taking nominations. For more information, send an e-mail to TBBCA@yahoo.com.

To reach G.G. Rigsby, call (727) 507-0788, or send your e-mail to grigsby@bizjournals.com.

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