Visit Tampa Bay celebrated another record year for tourism in Hillsborough County and launched “Talk Up Tampa Bay,” a program that rewards local residents who help bring meetings and conventions to the destination. The annual luncheon was held at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina and emceed by Bay News 9 Evening News Anchor Veronica Cintron. The 600-person gathering showcased the highlights of the year and tourism’s positive impact on Tampa Bay.
“The past year has been a period of amazing growth for tourism in Hillsborough County,” said Santiago Corrada, president & CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the destination marketing organization for Tampa and Hillsborough County. “Our reputation has soared.”
The Annual Meeting marked the end of Visit Tampa Bay’s 2016 fiscal year, which closed Sept. 30, and the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year. As of Sept. 30, Visit Tampa Bay reported the county had accrued $29.6 million in Tourist Development Taxes (aka bed taxes) levied on short-term stays in the county. That beat the previous year by more than 10 percent and was the third record year in a row.
During the 2016 fiscal year, Corrada noted, the destination:
• Expanded its reach domestically and internationally with new air service from Germany, Montreal and San Francisco.
• Received news coverage from high-profile publications, websites and broadcasters in Europe and South America, as well as Dallas, Miami, New York and Toronto. Tampa Bay was also featured on CNN’s Airport network and USAToday’s 10Best readers’ polls.
• Grew international leisure travelers through new arrangements with tour operators and travel agents.
• Marked its strongest summer convention business in history with six citywide meetings between June 1 and Sept. 1 that doubled meeting-related revenues to $22 million compared to last summer. And created Greybeard the Business Pirate to promote the destination to convention- and meeting-organizers.
• Launched its “Florida’s Most” out-of-state marketing campaign that brought in 164,000 extra room-nights and $70 million in new spending.
• Earned its first Henry award, the state’s highest honor for tourism marketing, in the category of Tourism Advocacy. And also won other marketing awards for its Baycrafted craft-beer campaign and for its website, visittampabay.com.
• Launched its first Fall marketing campaign that included “Craftober,” a month-long promotion aimed at fan of Tampa Bay’s booming craft beer scene.
• Launched its own online store – shop.visittampabay.com – promoting the destination through logo’d merchandise such as T-shirts, cups and hats.
Visit Tampa Bay also worked with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission to host the 2016 Frozen Four college hockey tournament, and with the Tampa Hillsborough Film & Digital Media Commission to host the first screening of “The Infiltrator,” at the Tampa Theatre.
“So now you know why it’s hard to find the perfect word to capture the past year,” Corrada told the crowd. “We’re so busy, it would take a whole dictionary to describe it all.”