Harper: Sales Tax Data Reflect Tourist Traffic Flow

Jan 30, 2015

Credit University of West Florida

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses his recent economic column, in which he details how sales data reflect seasonal ebb and flow of tourist traffic.

“That’s an important issue for Florida,” said Harper. He notes that the central and southern portions of the state, such as Miami, Naples, Sarasota and Punta Gorda, tend to attract their highest level of visitor traffic in the January through March/April time period.

“So they see sales spike, and you can see that in everything from hotel room revenues, which of course are taxable; an important source of revenue to state government in Florida,” Harper said. “And then it spills over into the other sectors of the economy, because visitors not only buy hotel rooms, but also shop at our general merchandise stores.”

Conversely, the seasonal pattern is the opposite in the northern tier of the start from Pensacola to Panama City and Jacksonville and Gainesville.

“They see their spike in visitation actually in the summer months,” said Harper, adding that Panama City is among the most seasonal in Florida. “So, it’s fair to say that they’re booming from March to July, and evidently they roll up the sidewalk when the tourists leave and the kids go back to school.”

Pensacon, now in its second year, is a new event that’s helping to boost the winter tourism season (shoulder season) in Northwest Florida. Pensacon 2015 will be held Feb. 27 through Mar 1. This week, city of Pensacola officials joined into promote the event by temporarily rebranding Pensacola International Airport as “Pensacola Intergalactic Airport” for the next month.

Harper maintains that the winter months are a great time to visit Northwest Florida and its beautiful beaches. “So, the things that we do to increase employment during that time of the year will lead to more air flights, lower fares, for business travelers as well, as well as to a better quality of infrastructure and built assets for visitors.

Elsewhere, Huron Consulting Group has acquired Studer Group for $325 million, also announcing plans to hire the entire local management team and keep the business based in Pensacola. “The decision to leave headquarters of Studer Group in Pensacola is excellent. Let’s hope that persists for a long time,” Harper said.

Credit University of West Florida

Finally, congratulations to Dr. Donovan Chau, Harper’s colleague and associate director of the UWF Office of Economic Development and Engagement. Chau has been tapped as the new executive director of Innovation Coast.

Dr. Rick Harper is director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement and also serves as director of the Studer Institute, a Pensacola-based organization that seeks citizen-powered solutions to challenges the community faces. rharper@uwf.edu.