Pasco County’s tourism figures continue to rise, and the prospects are bright for even more growth, according to Ed Caum, the county’s tourism manager.
Caum has been making the rounds to share the county’s news about another year of positive growth — following record numbers posted last year. He recently shared the county’s tourism story with members of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce during their luncheon meeting at the Heritage Harbor Golf and Country Club.
The county is on track to break its record in tourist tax collections.
It has collected $593,712 in tourist tax collections since October 2015, a 13.5 percent increase over last year, when it set its all-time record.
Caum said the county expects to exceed last year’s total, which exceeded $968,000.
Pasco isn’t known for gigantic theme parks and miles of pristine coastline, but it offers plenty of wide open spaces and lots of “quirky and eclectic attractions,” Caum said.
Just last year, Tampa Premium Outlets, off State Road 54 and Interstate 75, opened a 441,000-square-foot mall, featuring 110 retailers.
Later this year, Florida Hospital Center Ice is set to open off State Road 56, parallel to Interstate 75, and that’s expected to draw scores of regional tournaments, and vie for national tournaments, too.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions presented by Pasco County draws competitors from the U.S. and Canada to Wesley Chapel every year. And, Gran Fondo Florida draws cyclists from all over the country to East Pasco’s rolling hills.
There’s an assortment of other events and attractions for people who enjoy a bit of adventure. There’s Tree Hoppers, in Dade City, a zip line course designed for aerial adventurers of all ability levels, and there’s SunWest Park, which is expected to attract worldwide attention for its beach volleyball courts and its wakeboard course.
And, there are fun events, such as the annual Kumquat Festival and the Florida Bug Jam in Dade City.
Besides all that, Pasco County has an international reputation for its nudist resorts, which account for about 20 percent of the county’s tourist tax revenues, Caum said.
Plus, the county likes to promote its microbreweries and its Farm to Table restaurants, Caum said.
Tourist attractions do more than just offer people a chance to have fun, Caum said.
“Tourism is economic development,” he said.
Attracting people to the area gives them a chance to see what it has to offer.
Many visitors decide to become permanent residents, and some of their companies come with them, Caum said.
That leads to job growth, which helps propel the economy, he said.
Plus, taxes paid by tourists reduce the tax burden for Florida residents, which benefits everyone who lives here, Caum said.
So, when it comes to promoting the county, that’s everybody’s job, the tourism manager said.
He likes to tell a story about overhearing a young waiter being asked by a visitor what there was to do around Pasco County.
The waiter replied: “I’ve lived here forever. There’s nothing to do in Pasco County.”
That, the tourism manager said, is a missed opportunity.
Published May 18, 2016