Okaloosa County reports 7.5 million visitors in 2021, boosts tax revenue by millions
OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Okaloosa County set a 2021 record for tourism spending and overnight lodging tax.
More than 5 million visitors come to Okaloosa County each year. In 2021, the number reached 7.5 million visitors, increasing tourist spending by 30% over 2020 to a total of $736 million, 28% more than in 2019.
“It’s direct community spending in our stores’ captain restaurant charter, which grows our economy on top of the tourism development tax.”
Jennifer Adams, Director of Destin Fort Walton Beach Tourism
The Tourism Development Tax, or Bed Tax, is 5 cents on the dollar for overnight stays less than 6 months old.
“This year we had a banner year,” Adams said. “We grew our collection by almost 74% compared to 2020. Even more importantly, it was 41% compared to 2019.”
Adams with the Tourism Development Council (TDC) credits the increase in tourist numbers after the pandemic year and the increase in hotel rates.
“We’re not talking about the rate or selling anything here that we’re promoting,” Adams said. “I tell the bed tax partners that I will bring people here for you, you set the rate accordingly. But with a higher tariff, you must have a higher level of service.
Of the TDC’s $23 million budget, $7.5 million was spent promoting Destin and Fort Walton Beach. The rest is spent on beach restoration, park cleanups and capital projects.
Adams says the TDC is working hard for the 2022 season. They say a new focus is targeting millennial moms looking for an outdoor escape.
“More than 50 percent of children nationwide spend less time outdoors than inmates,” Adams said. “On top of that, 49% of their parents don’t know how to play with their children. This is a shocking statistic”
The TDC has launched new programs like Little Adventures to make holidays on the Emerald Coast even more fun.
You can find the latest Little Adventure on the Visit Destin Fort Walton Beach website.
To arrange a little adventure in Okaloosa County or get in touch with the TDC, click here. You can also email [email protected]