County to study hotel data, events impact
DADE CITY - Pasco’s Tourist Development Council is heeding the call from county commissioners for more detailed research on who visits Pasco County and when. The council on Wednesday unanimously approved Tourism Director Eric Keaton’s request to spend up to $44,500 for hotel occupancy reports and a study on the financial impact of local events and festivals. “This is a big deal,” county spokesman Ed Caum said. “We’ve had this in our budget for the last four years, and this is the first time the TDC has approved it.” Caum said the county would contract with Smith Travel Research, the industry leader in compiling hotel data and trend reports. With the customized STAR report, the county will be able to assess daily and monthly hotel rates and occupancy levels and compare them with neighboring markets, he said.Smith Travel relies primarily on chain hotels for its data. Many independents, including Saddlebrook Resort, do not participate. But even without the county’s largest hotel, the STAR report will help county tourism officials evaluate whether county-sponsored events and festivals really “put heads in beds.” “We have more than 20 (branded) properties in Pasco County,” Keaton said. The county will contract with an outside firm to conduct a yearlong study on the return on investment for local festivals and events. Commissioner Jack Mariano has been clamoring for such a report for years. “I was pleased with what they provided last year, which showed that sports are about ten times as effective as local events,” Mariano said. “These local events have a great value to the community.” The research budget also includes up to $12,000 to conduct an annual visitor profile study that includes face-to-face interviews at local hotels, attractions and parks. The surveys will detail visitors’ hometown, purpose of trip, income and travel budgets and whether they plan a return visit to Pasco County.