Economic Development 2023: The business of tourism

In 2022, Hillsborough County tourist development tax numbers (also known as the “bed tax,” which is a fee collected by the county for each night someone rents a hotel room) broke records as November totaled $5.76 million, a 46.2% increase over the previous November. This was the best in the county’s history, according to the most recent data from Visit Tampa Bay. 

“Our ‘always-on’ strategy helped to continue our momentum while others were still reopening,” says Santiago Corrada, president and chief executive officer of Visit Tampa Bay. “We are so proud of our success, year after year, and we must continue to find innovative ways to raise the bar and market Tampa Bay as a premier destination.”

Santiago Corrada

In 2023, Visit Tampa Bay has big plans to go even bigger when sharing the story of Tampa Bay to other parts of the United States and beyond. 

“Our largest integrated campaign yet is set to launch this month in out-of-state markets and will run through April.” 

Corrada is speaking of the Tampa Bay Effect campaign, which will include the first-ever Hulu ads, focused on hospitality. The campaign targets domestic and international markets with more than $2 million in paid advertising plus public relations, social media and premier activations. 

Based on independent research and creative by FKQ Advertising and Marketing, media will focus on the destination’s most opportunistic markets for visitation such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington, D.C. International markets include the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico and Latin America.

“We incorporate many first-to-market strategies in the campaign and some highlights include massive out-of-home advertising takeovers at highly populated landmarks such as the World Trade Center and 33rd Street train stations in New York City,” Corrada says. 

Corrada adds that Visit Tampa Bay will continue to market Tampa Bay as a leading destination for meetings and conventions.

Soon, those conventions will be able to accommodate a lot more people, too. 

The Tampa Convention Center is underway with construction for its $38 million capital improvement campaign. The expansion adds another 18,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes 18 new waterfront meeting rooms, with floor-to-ceiling windows. 

The project was designed by Baker Barrios Architects, in Tampa, and is scheduled to be complete later this year. 

It was a big year for Visit Tampa Bay, and its agency of record, FKQ Advertising and Marketing, based in Clearwater.

Lisa Faller

After a formal bidding process, Visit Tampa Bay named its longstanding partner, FKQ Advertising and Marketing, as its agency of record, in September 2022. 

“We are so proud of our partnership with Visit Tampa Bay, over the last six years, and the incredible results we have achieved together in driving visitation to a world-class destination that is also right in our backyard,” says Lisa Faller, president and CEO of FKQ Advertising and Marketing. “Our ability to provide effective campaign tracking allows Visit Tampa Bay to see how their marketing dollars are directly impacting increased revenue for the region, which has been an ingredient in our recipe for success. In 2023, and beyond, we will continue to position them as a leader in the category and exceed their desired results in an ever-changing landscape.”

The longstanding partnership between the two Tampa Bay-area based organizations is one that indicates the value of working with local firms. 

“Marketing works, and we continue to innovate for the tourism industry. Our success in record-breaking visitations only fuels us to achieve even more results for our partners, and the community we serve, and that is why we continue to discover innovative ways to market Tampa Bay as a premier destination,” Corrada says. “When travelers are ready to escape the cold weather, Tampa Bay is here for them, with our sun-drenched outdoor activities, beautiful bodies of water, world-class hospitality and authentic history – all of which make this area relaxingly dynamic.”

No time for ‘sidelines’ 

The sports industry is a major driver of economic development and tourism in the Tampa Bay market. 

Rob Higgins

Here are some stats shared from Rob Higgins, executive director at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. 

The 2022 SEC men’s basketball tournament generated 23,423 hotel visitor room nights.

The U.S. gymnastics championships generated 9,083 hotel visitor room nights.

The 2023 college hockey “Frozen Four” is projected to generate 18,000 hotel visitor room nights.

The 2023 NCAA women’s volleyball championship is projected to generate 15,000 hotel room nights.

“The conversation [in attracting sporting events to Tampa] traditionally starts with a couple of things. One is the places to play and the second are places to stay,” Higgins says. “If you don’t have the competition venues, as well as the needed hotel rooms in order to be able to host an event you get crossed off the list really, really fast.” 

He adds the addition of the Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay, located in southeast Hillsborough County, has added another opportunity to host more events. 

“That venue has been in existence for, close to, four years now and has really not only met but exceeded expectations, in terms of being able to host a variety of different events from fly football to soccer to lacrosse to field hockey,” Higgins says. “It’s really been a great driver of sports tourism and has allowed us to be ultra-competitive in that space.” 

A high inventory of hotel rooms, as noted above in the stats, is another major factor in attracting those big events that bring in those major dollars. 

“Continuing to improve, and add to, the hotel offering in order to be able to enhance the attendee experience is vital,” Higgins says. “The minute our community rests on its laurels and doesn’t look for ways to continue to evolve is when we’re going to find ourselves on the sidelines of hosting these events.” 

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