Here’s our Conexión Florida Tourism column for April.
Last month we discussed how tourism developed and how it contributes to local economies. Over the past few weeks there have been some developments to tourism here on the Northern Gulf Coast that I thought you’d find interesting.
Tourist Development Tax (TDT), commonly known as Bed Tax, was set up to be paid only by tourists and to fund the promotion of tourism in the areas where it’s collected. Now, you may think that that just means it can only be spent on advertising a destination, but that’s far from the case. Bed tax, certainly in Florida, can be used for a whole range of projects. This ranges from providing life guards on beaches, creating museums, running convention centers, developing artificial reefs, building beach access, repairing beaches where weather or tides have caused erosion, through, of course, marketing a destination.
As TDT can generate substantial amounts of revenue, it has attracted the attention of some legislators who would like to use it for non-tourist related uses, for example paving roads in non-tourist areas for example. Consequently, proposals have been put forward in the Florida Legislature to change the rules.
Don’t you just love tourists? Well, we probably should as not only do they provide income directly for many of us here along the northern Gulf Coast, but also contribute a huge amount in taxes to our areas. More than that, whenever we travel to a new area either on vacation or to visit friends and family, we take the role of tourists ourselves.
The first real tourists (as opposed to explorers, adventurers and other less desirable world wanderers!) were the children of wealthy families in Europe in the 1700s. To keep them out of trouble and hopefully provide them with some classical education, they were sent off on what was termed The Grand Tour………….
When we think tourism here on the northern Gulf Coast, we automatically default to sugar white sand and emerald green water. Why wouldn’t we? We have some of the best beaches in the world. The trouble is the tourists only tend to see the part of our counties that are within two miles of the beach. The effects of tourism spread far inland, though, as many of us involved in the tourism industry live away from the beach and consequently spend income within inland communities. Incidentally, that’s another benefit of tourism that’s not often recognized.
Last year we went on a short road trip to Georgia, to an area north of Atlanta. I wrote about the trip on my blog – http://ow.ly/KgHL3083iem. We took the back roads avoiding as many towns as we could. It was here that what’s termed agritourism was evident. What may not be obvious is that tourists travel for many reasons, and we’ll cover some of these in the future – cultural tourism, ecotourism, heritage, historical and medical tourism to name a few.
There is a current movement to preserve the rural way of life in Florida. Despite the impression that the Sunshine State is the theme park and beach capital of the world, agriculture is vital to Florida. Farm cash receipts from marketing Florida agricultural products in 2012 amounted to $8.22 billion.
Florida has a vibrant agritourism business (http://visitor.visitfloridafarms.com) as does Georgia (http://georgia-agritourism.org), which offer everything from pick-your-own to farm-stays. Many farms we passed in Georgia had signs offering “on farm accommodation.” There also are farm visitor centers, many boasting restaurants, souvenir stores and produce outlets – all activities that generate new income for the rural communities.
Do we promote agritourism here in Northwest Florida? Well, not really.See the rest of the article HERE.