Like the state and the county as a whole, tourism in West Volusia broke pre-pandemic levels in the first three months of 2022.
Georgia Turner, executive director of the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority, which promotes the area to visitors, proudly noted that the agency’s share of the tax generated by hotels, campgrounds and RV parks in March was the most ever collected in one month.
“It was more than $112,000 in March, and we had record collections in January and February, as well,” she told The Beacon. “It keeps going up and up, which is unbelievable, especially in light of COVID.”
In fact, the first quarter of this year even topped the first three months of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic started, Turner said.
Volusia County imposes a 6-percent tax on hotel rooms, campgrounds and other short-term lodging. Half of the proceeds go to operating the convention center in Daytona Beach, and the other half is split proportionally among the three tourism agencies representing different parts of the county.
West Volusia’s tourism tax revenues in March were impressively higher than the same time last year, with a more-than-54-percent increase. The other tourism agencies in Volusia County reported similar success, Turner said. The Halifax Area Advertising Authority, which promotes the Daytona Beach area, had tax collections that were more than 55 percent higher than a year ago, while the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority had a nearly 38-percent increase year-over-year.
But with the pandemic over in many people’s minds, or at least manageable, visitors locally and statewide are resuming trips and activities they had been putting off, Turner said.
Weddings, for instance, are continuing to be a hot segment of the market in West Volusia for many visitors after becoming very popular last year, she said. But also, Stetson University has 18 varsity sports that bring in visiting teams year-round, she said, corporate travel or visitors en route to other areas are increasing, and out-of-towners are coming for two- or three-day stays.
It doesn’t hurt that West Volusia also has a wide range of outdoor activities, from fishing to boating to recreation trails, and a variety of other attractions.
Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, posted information recently showing that 35.982 million people traveled to the state between the start of January and the end of March.
Tourism, a key engine of the state’s economy, was 39.6 percent higher than during the first quarter of 2021, a time when COVID-19 vaccines were becoming more widely available. It also was 19.29 percent over the first quarter of 2020, when the virus hit the state.
More important for tourism officials, the new total was up 1.35 percent from the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic started.
“The regular market is back to normal, back to the level we were in 2019,” Turner said. “A lot of people discovered us because we were open during the pandemic.”
— The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.