MILTON — For the past three years, Santa Rosa County tourism development taxes skyrocketed from about $2.4 million to $3.9 million.
Julie White, tourism development office director, told the five-member Santa Rosa commission Monday the 19 percent growth this year is among the most “phenomenal” she has experienced in her 25-year career.
“We rejoice in these great numbers but we also have to manage the tourism,” White said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”
Part of that credit goes to St. Petersburg-based Paradise Advertising and Marketing, which took over in 2016 and changed Navarre Beach’s slogan to the highly successful “Florida’s Most Relaxing Place.” The bed tax increased nearly 17 percent over the first two years the agency worked with Navarre Beach and Santa Rosa County.
“We handle other destinations throughout the state,” said Paradise’s Rudy Webb. “They’re seeing gains but not nearly 20 percent. We should all be very proud about that.”
White said she wants to do “responsible reinvestments” with the jump in bed taxes. For example, the TDC plans to install shower facilities, add a new sound stage, purchase lifeguard towers, buy ATVs, do beautification efforts and create branded signs to put at each of the beach walkovers, among other improvements.
“It’s really important to me to deliver what we’re advertising out there,” White said.
Webb said he hopes Paradise continues to succeed with the changes it plans during the upcoming tourism campaign.
“Relaxing can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” Webb said, pointing out that “relaxing” can be strolling the beach, golfing 36 holes, biking nature trails, paddleboarding or ziplining.
One big change coming is promoting to different target markets.
This fiscal year, the Tourism Development Council plans to drop Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, from its “established markets” and add Atlanta. In the “growth markets.” It removed Little Rock, Arkansas, and replaced it with Charlotte, North Carolina, In the “emerging markets” while it added Memphis and Orlando and got rid of Jacksonville, Macon, Georgia, and Biloxi, Mississippi.
“We’re really refining the markets and spending more money there,” Webb said.
Additionally, the agency will do six-week Atlanta and Memphis “takeovers.”
“It means we’re going to be everywhere,” Webb said.
Navarre Beach will have three campaigns: spring and summer for families, fall for couples and an evergreen campaign.
The biggest part of the advertising pie is digital at 39.1 percent. It’s followed by outdoor at 16.9 percent, paid social media at 9.6 percent, print at 7.1 percent, TV at 7.0 percent, paid search at 5.9 percent, radio/activation at 5.4 percent, streaming audio at 4.5 percent and contingency at 4.5 percent.
Additionally, Webb said it will plug PR efforts in places that Santa Rosa County cannot necessarily afford, such as “Travel and Leisure.”
District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech, District 4, whose district includes Navarre Beach, said he’s pleased with the tourism advertising results.
“We’re seeing some very positive actions down there,” Piech said. “I’m excited. That growth is good.”
Meanwhile, Commissioner Bob Cole pointed to the boost from “Navarre Beach expressway” or State Road 87. The Florida Department of Transportation finished expanding it to four lanes from Interstate 10 to U.S. Highway 98 this past summer.
About 88 percent of visitors drive to Navarre Beach, the TDC reported.
“It’s our access to the beach,” Cole said.
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