St. Johns Tourism Development Set for Solid Returns in 2024

St. Johns Tourism Development Set for Solid Returns in 2024

While the budget proposal from Gov. Ron DeSantis for next fiscal year is nearly $5 billion less than the current budget, at least Visit Florida officials can breathe easier – for now.

The proposed budget allocates $105 million for the state’s tourism development arm, one of the few agencies not to have a reduced allocation. However, Visit Florida has recently been in the crosshairs of state legislators and the annual legislative session is typically a nail-biter for tourism professionals.

The role of Visit Florida in promoting tourism in the Sunshine State is an important part of St. Johns County’s tourism development efforts, according to Tera Meeks, St. Johns Tourism and Cultural Development Director.

“Visit Florida is the statewide destination marketing organization which focuses their efforts on promoting Florida tourism opportunities to people living outside the State of Florida,” Meeks said. “These efforts help to keep Florida’s collective tourism destinations front of mind for people across the country who are beginning to plan their future vacations. Out-of-state visitors are the most desirable visitors for Florida’s overall economy because they typically spend more while on vacation and bring new money into Florida.”

Meeks said leveraging what Visit Florida can do for local tourism development efforts helps extend budgets and enhance marketing efforts.

“Visit Florida coordinates cooperative promotion and resource purchasing opportunities,” she said. “These cooperative opportunities provide many Florida destinations with increased access and a reduced purchasing cost for both big-name publications and comprehensive data sets. Many of these resources and opportunities would otherwise be out of reach for many Florida cities and counties because these opportunities would be cost prohibitive if purchased individually.”

Looking ahead to the new year, Meeks said the county’s tourism industry is on track to keep showing solid growth.

“St. Johns County’s tourism industry continues to do well, experiencing about a 4.5% increase in Tourist Development Tax revenue in Fiscal Year 2023,” she said. “The county is anticipating that Fiscal Year 2024 will look very similar with about a 4% increase in Tourist Development Tax revenue collections.”

That is similar to what neighboring Flagler County tourism officials are expecting.

“After the post-pandemic ‘tourism boom’ experienced in 2021 and 2022, we saw a stabilization of sorts – with slight increases – over the last fiscal year,” said Flagler County Tourism Development Director Amy Lukasik. “Our outlook for 2024 is a continuation of that, with travel returning to pre-pandemic levels.”