To the editor:
For the third year in a row, Lee County bed tax collections have risen to record levels. In the fiscal year (October 2012 to September 2013), the county generated $28,672,792 in bed tax, a nearly 8 percent increase over the previous year. The record-breaking collections say a great deal about how hard our community has worked together to make our local tourism industry strong.
The numbers are even more impressive given the historical context. Bed tax dollars have dipped only three times in county history, the most recent being during the recession-hit 2009 season. In the four years since then, bed tax collections have increased nearly 31 percent.
Certainly, we are fortunate to have a beautiful destination to sell to visitors. We offer a fantastic vacation experience that truly provides a respite from everyday life. I'm also proud of our recent marketing efforts. We fine-tuned our approach to target visitors both by geography and their behaviors and that's certainly paying off.
More than anything, I applaud our local tourism partners, as you played an important role in our collective success. You deliver a great product, fantastic deals and outstanding customer service. Good marketing and a beautiful destination might lure visitors to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, but it's the top-notch customer service that brings them back and generates referrals, and for that, we thank you.
In addition to the record-breaking bed tax collections, the calendar year 2013 visitor statistics are looking very favorable as well. So far, we've recorded a 12.3 percent increase in the number of visitors staying in paid accommodations. Those same visitors have increased expenditures by 3.7 percent. All visitors combined have spent $2.1 billion in Lee County so far this year.
As I celebrate the success we've had, I tip my hat to you and all our partners. I truly appreciate your hard work and commitment to customer service. With your help, I look forward to continuing to generate new and returning visitors to our community.