Local leaders hosted the State of Collier Tourism Briefing press conference earlier this week in honor of National Travel and Tourism Week. Florida’s Paradise Coast Convention and the Visitor’s Bureau focused on local industry highlights, upcoming events and the local kick-off for the Southwest Florida Travel Rally.
Paradise Coast comprises the Naples and Marco Island areas as well as the western portion of the Everglades. These areas market themselves as a romantic escapes and family getaways that provide vacations to tourists year round. They also boast of more than 30 miles of white beaches, world-class golfing, thriving arts and culture scenes, distinctive dining and the best for outdoor adventures.
In 2014, Florida welcomed 97.3 million visitors to the state, providing $1.8 billion in economic impact for Collier County. Jack W. Wert, Paradise Coast Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director, called 2014 and the beginning of 2015 “record-breaking.”
“They really did have a tremendous impact,” Wert said. “We have a five-year history of tremendous growth. Coming out of the recession in 2010, we did not see a lot of growth because the oil spill hurt us. Our phones stopped ringing, people stopped traveling to our local destinations, but boy, in 2011 we came out of it. Between then and this year, there is $683 million in visitor spending grown and economic impact in community.”
“This year we reached $1.8 billion in economic impact in visitors coming here. And those are just overnight visitors, people who pay and stay in lodging in Collier. We are not even counting seasonal residents. This is more than 12 percent more than 2014, and it is huge for our businesses. Tourists spend money everywhere and affect every business you can think of.”
According to recent studies by Paradise Coast Marketing, approximately 43 percent of the tourists who came to Collier County this year were new visitors to area. Of the millions of visitors who came to the local area, 77 percent came purely for vacation, 29 percent came for business purposes, 12 percent came to see friends or family and 7 travelled specifically for special events. The average visitor was 47 years-old, a drop in age by about ten years.
“Our visitor industry supports a lot of jobs,” Wert said. “More than 35,300 jobs are supported by the visitor tourism industry. We even get percentages in Collier County for gas revenue. Tourists from other areas in Florida are still our number one feeder of visitors. But closely followed are tourists in the Northeast and Midwest states as well as Europe and the United Kingdom.”
Although proximity to the vast beaches is an obvious attraction for most visitors, the second most popular attraction was a surprise to Wert and his team.
“Usually shopping is the number two reason that most people travel to Florida destinations,” Wert said. “But for Paradise Coast, dining is our second most popular attraction, so we are a big foodie destination.”
Wert also shared statistics of the most popular vacation spots for 2014 in the United States. Naples beat New York City, Chicago, Tampa and Orlando.
“For every dollar we spend in marketing for 2014,” Wert said. “We had a return on investment of $98. This year so far our return on investment has been $94. Now I’m not a big investor, but I know that these are the kind of numbers that any business would like to see.”
Collier County has seen 51 straight months of job growth, making it the leading county in the state’s hospitality and tourism segment. While tourist season may be hard on the locals, it has been more than generous to the local economy. The Collier Convention and Visitors Bureaus are already planning their marketing plans for the 2016 fiscal year.
© 2015 Naples Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.