Thread: Do we need a TDC?
05-09-2012, 08:27 AM #1
Do we need a TDC?
It was posted here recently that if business wasn't so good that people wouldn't be so critical of our South Walton TDC. True or not true?
The question is: is business good because we have a high-functioning TDC or does it not matter? Should the TDC just take care of the beaches and walkovers, beach safety and such, or should they be actively marketing our area? Do you have to keep spending to get people here?
I have an educated guess that business owners, especially bed tax collectors, are thrilled that business is so good and that the TDC is on top of things. Also that BP money came in and our TDC was on top of things and got a great share of it and was ahead of the game. That the big players watch the TDC very closely and keep them in line and actually guide them.
On the other hand, ordinary folks who don't rely on tourist dollars, (or think they don't) would rather not have so many tourists.
\ from yesterday's BCC meeting /
TDC Director Dawn Moliterno said the bed tax collection for March was a 58% increase. The TDC won 11 marketing awards. During a discussion, Pat Blackshear told the commissioners the TDC Beach Accesses are full and she wants the commissioners to begin looking at addressing the needs for additional access space.
Moliterno said the recent events in Okaloosa do not reflect the way TDC’s operate. She reminded the commissioners the Walton TDC went through a vigorous financial review and as a result policies were adopted. She said, when dollars come in, they go to the Comptroller and she has a spending authority of $25,000. Moliterno said the TDC does not hold the checkbook. She said the fiscal responsibility with the BP grant is not taken lightly.
Commissioner Larry Jones suggested the BCC and the TDC Board schedule a joint meeting to address the issues that have come before them so as they move forward they know what is expected. He said he wants to thank them for their service. Commissioner Comander agreed, saying she does not want anyone on the TDC Board to think they are not appreciated. The meeting will look at the goals of the TDC.
05-09-2012, 09:40 AM #2
It should not be an either or matter. We can diversify our economy and still agressively seek our now main source of income, tourism. Some will ask how do we create hugh manufacturing plants such as the automobile industry in Alabama and Tennessee. The answer is you don't. You begin by making the business climate attractive to light industry and the technological fields. You provide them access to land where they can develop and grow. If their movement here is made attractive enough, it is like the ball field. Build it and they will come. The difference is they do their own building, but we supply the resources to them to do that.
The mission of the Tourist Development Council should be re-evaluated and changed, IMO. It is changing already to some degee and that change should be further amplified. BP has a nationwide ad out touting the great advantages of vacations on the Gulf and Emerald Coast. Dawn Moliterno is a part of that ad. It is effective and says what needs to be emphasize to attract visitors to our area. We should let others do the advertising of the area while the TDC concentrates on supporting those visitors arriving or already here. We need a really nice Welcome center such as the ones available as you enter Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The path to it should be well advertised and marked. All information regarding the area should be readily availabe to tourists stopping as I am sure it is now. Somehow, I get the feeling that the Welcome Center as it is now is underutilized by our guests. I am not an expert so I may be wrong. Not only should we have a nice, attractive Welcome Center, we should have kiosks availabe at areas visitors frequent, particularly the beach accesses. Those manning those kiosks would provide a smile, a hearty welcome the the beaches of South Walton and friendly information on the "do's" and "don'ts" regarding our beaches and Dune Lakes.
The role of the TDC should change I strongly believe. It should be smaller, less focused on advertising and more focused on its availabilty to those who arrive here. This is only one man's thoughts and I await to hear what others will express.I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability. Ron Hart
05-09-2012, 09:59 AM #3
Excellent post Andy!
I believe Bay County may start getting some excellent industry along 79 because of the airport and road improvements. I suppose Walton may benefit a little from that, but only real estate and food service probably. I think if you want a TDC welcome center then 98 would have been the perfect place. We could have educated some of the folks who wizz through on their ways between Panama City and Destin. Many times I've heard folks say "we didn't know anything was between except forest," and then one day they decided to head south off 98 and found South Walton Beaches.
And Keep in mind that BP money will dry up and things will get back to "normal".
This website probably does all the marketing you need. I hear people saying all the time they visit here or moved here because they first found out about our area on this site. A picture is worth a thousand words (or ads?).
05-09-2012, 10:27 AM #4
Yes Andy, well said.
I don't think we need a huge welcome center, something small and nice will do the job, and little TDC satellite/kiosk things around town would be great and get the information out in front of people where they go- the beach and the grocery. Work a deal with Publix, the major resort communities, and utilize the the larger beach accesses. I don't know who conducted the needs assessment that told the TDC they need ONE big shiny building to get more people coming through, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you put info out where people will have to trip over it (like a grocery or beach access), that info will reach more people, and it will probably cost a whole lot less than building a shiny new building, not to mention the kiosks could be up and running faster than any building could be built.
Conference room/meeting space is available at the library, government center, and at our resort communities- I am sure if it is larger conference room space that is needed, then maybe they can work a deal with some of these places. How large is the actual TDC staff? How many offices do they really need, or is this a case of needs vs. wants?
The TDC gives grants to organizations who put on events that put "heads in beds"- like Songwriters, Destin Charity Wine Auction, Seeing Red, etc. These events are just as important in marketing South Walton as any marketing coming straight from the TDC- they work like tentacles, and the TDC knows that. It would be wonderful if more money would be given to some of the smaller groups who don't necessarily provide an "experience" that brings a visitor to our area, but rather is part of the atmosphere that makes South Walton great and provides an experience they take advantage of once they are here.
Pat Blackshear's comment concerns me because she is right- we have maxed out our accesses, and we still want more and more visitors. Already, many accesses look like Miami Beach in busy weeks, parking is a nightmare, most do not have restroom facilities. If we continue to demand more and more visitors to fill our rental units and frequent our businesses, then we are going to have to make some hard and painful decisions about how to handle the resource they came to visit in the first place- the beach.
05-09-2012, 11:05 AM #5
Jdarg - nice post. I'll post more later but quickly I'll say that the TDC office space is maxed out. They'll be happy to give you a quick tour. I've found all the people who work there very friendly, caring, and professional. They want the best for SoWal - late public perception is a overboard IMO.
05-09-2012, 11:26 AM #6
This is kind of like the Walton County School District- the not -so-great news always gets the tongues wagging. Maybe both organizations should be doing a better job of getting as much good news out about themselves as possible, and get the good will of the community behind them. I know this is easier said than done, as it seems to be human nature to be oblivious to any news unless it is titillating or smells even slightly of scandal and intrigue.
With respect to the TDC beach accesses (i.e., the public access points) being full, has the TDC or the BCC ever tried to address this by adding more?
Yes, the TDC continues to develop and build out access points. In the past two-three years, restrooms have been added in Inlet Beach, about 50 parking spots in Seagrove at the Santa Clara Beach Access, over 100 parking spots were constructed along Scenic Gulf Drive across from Seascape by Public Works and is now being maintained by the TDC, and there are other projects that are in different stages of evaluation and design. Additionally, a number of bay access points have been re-worked to add parking and amenities. Please stay tuned as more projects are discussed and come online.
One issue that often arises is in areas that the County doesn't own or have easements for. If the County doesn't own the land or have an easement, the County would have to buy the land as it is illegal to purchase land with TDC dollars. The TDC owns no properties.
This is often a sticking point with shrinking ad valorem tax revenues. That being said, the County and TDC have been able to secure properties or easements from private individuals, and state and federal agencies for development over the years. Some of those acquisitions have led to the larger regional accesses including: Inlet Beach Regional Access, Walton Dunes Regional Beach Access, Van Ness Butler Jr. Regional Access, Grayton Beach Regional Access, Ed Walline Regional Beach Access, Dune Allen Regional Access, Miramar Beach Regional Access and Scenic Gulf Drive Regional Access (aren't positive on the name as it is across from Seascape). I believe the TDC currently maintains 67 beach, bay and lake accesses for the County.
Hope this helps.
05-09-2012, 01:17 PM #9
Jdarg and BeachSiO2, great and informative posts.I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability. Ron Hart
05-09-2012, 02:54 PM #10
If there is land fronting 331 big enough that the county owns, then building cost should be under $2 mil. Just a guess.
As for your second point about intrigue - we have such a small town, folks are hungry for drama. Aside from some commish stupidity and general ignorance there ain't much going on except maybe petty jealousy and a little biz incest.
BP has a nationwide ad out touting the great advantages of vacations on the Gulf and Emerald Coast. Dawn Moliterno is a part of that ad. It is effective and says what needs to be emphasize to attract visitors to our area. We should let others do the advertising of the area while the TDC concentrates on supporting those visitors arriving or already here.
05-09-2012, 04:35 PM #12
First let me say that I certainly don't know what all the TDC does, this is just my impression:
The beach accesses and cleanup are something I know helps tourism. Many other places have trashy beaches. Clean gorgeous beaches ARE our economy - we saw that during the spill. This is money well spent and with little waste as far as I can see. The flag system is easy to understand and very helpful. It is rare for me to go to an access and find it is in bad condition. Essential service, though they need to stop putting up more and bigger signs.
When I attend events I will hear that the TDC provided some funds and is being thanked, see their ads in the programs, and see them escorting around VIPs. I do not know the extent of their involvement in planning, but at the events it seems to be mostly them enjoying the events. Question the value of most of the boozing and schmoozing, but know this is typical in marketing and will not change (because I watch Mad Men ).
The current TDC visitor center is not good. A visitor center that visitors cannot easily access is one of the stupider things I can think of, but a welcome center where you are not welcomed and the bathrooms are always dark and dirty runs a close second. I definitely think a new building in a better location is a must, but after seeing the level of public disgust with the renderings and location I am worried this is well on the way to being yet another expensive mistake.
Aside from that, most of what I am aware of them doing seems to involve wasting a great deal of money on some really stupid stuff and having little oversight. In the past few years we have had the big blue sign debacle, the branding debacle, the song debacle, and now the forest debacle. Considering their primary job is PR and marketing, these really makes me wonder how good they are at their job.
They say the current TDC building is 9,000 square feet, and that is too small. What exactly are they doing that they need so much space?Basically, I'm just passing through on my way to Australia.
05-09-2012, 05:30 PM #13
I think debacle is a bit strong. But seems like if they engaged locals a bit more they could avoid egg on the face. 90% of what they do is pretty normal stuff. Making omelets? The Tdc does not escort VIPs - just a few out of town press from time to time who are writing free articles about the area. I agree with you about clean beaches. I encourage you to take a tour of the current facility. Half is office and the other half is storage, welcome area, meeting space, etc. Tailwagger summed it up pretty well above. I do not want more signs![SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
05-10-2012, 06:34 AM #14
What is the Tourist Development Tax?
The Tourist Development Tax is a local sales tax, authorized and governed by Florida Statute 125.0104, on transient rentals. Because it applies exclusively to rental of living quarters or accommodations for a term of six months or less, it has been nicknamed the “bed tax.”
In Walton County, the Tourist Development Tax rate is 4.5% and applies to rentals of properties located south of the Intracoastal Waterway. This area includes Hwy. 30-A, Hwy. 98, Emerald Coast Parkway, Scenic Gulf Drive, and all of Walton County’s beaches south of Choctawhatchee Bay.
After administrative costs, the revenue from the 4.5% Tourist Development Tax is used as follows: 2% for marketing/promotion and beach maintenance, 1% for Autumn Tides Fall promotion and new product development, 1% for beach nourishment and restoration, and 0.5% to bring low-cost air travel to our area, thereby expanding our markets. The Tourist Development Council oversees the expenditures of the tax and reports to the Walton County Board of County Commisioners.
Managers of rental properties and owners who manage their own rentals are responsible for collecting, accounting for, and remitting Tourist Development Tax from their guests to the Walton County Clerk of Court. Remittance is normally due monthly, but seasonal rentals and individual rental owners may qualify to file quarterly.
Online registration and filing are available at www.touristtax.com/Walton . If you prefer to register manually, please click here for a printable form. Please click here for a blank payment coupon. The address for contacting us is:
Walton County Clerk of Court
Attention: Tourist Development Tax
31 Coastal Centre Blvd, Suite 500
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Telephone: (850) 267-2040
Fax: (850) 267-1335
What are the rules for collecting and remitting the Tourist Development Tax?
Tourist Development Tax returns are due on the 1st of the month following the end of the collection period and delinquent if postmarked after the 20th. When the 20th falls on a Saturday, Sunday or county/state/federal holiday, the postmark deadline shall be the next business day.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 212.12, managers / owners are permitted to keep a collection allowance of 2.5% of the tax collected, up to a maximum of $30.00, if their return is postmarked timely. If a return is delinquent, the collection allowance may not be taken and penalty and interest will be due. The penalty is 10% of the tax due, with a minimum penalty of $50.00. Interest accrues daily at a variable rate established by the Florida Department of Revenue. If noncompliance continues, collection action is taken as outlined in the Florida Statutes.
Managers / owners are also required to keep all records associated with rental revenue, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, for a period of three years. These records must be made available for audit upon 60 days notice from the Walton County Clerk of Court.
Exemptions from the Tourist Development Tax
If a written lease for a term of more than six months was signed at the beginning of the rental, that tenant is exempt from paying Tourist Development Tax. Six-month leases and month-to-month rentals are subject to the tax. If a monthly tenant stays longer than six months, they become exempt beginning with the seventh month.
Also, rentals made for business purposes by governments or non-profit organizations may be exempt if certain conditions are met. Examples of tax-exempt rentals and your requirements for exempting these rentals may be obtained from the Florida Department of Revenue or the Walton County Clerk of Court.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Tourist Development Tax
Question: Are there other taxes I must collect on my rentals?
Answer: Yes. In addition to the Tourist Development Tax, you must collect and remit state sales tax (currently 6%) and local sales tax (currently 1%) to the Florida Department of Revenue. The total tax to charge your guests is currently 11.5%. You may register online with the Florida Department of Revenue at http://www.myflorida.com/dor/eservices/apps/register/.
Question: I manage my own rental property, but I reside in another county or state and none of the money for my rentals changes hands in Walton County. Are my rentals still subject to these taxes?
Answer: Yes, they are. Taxability is based upon the location of the rental property, not the location of the financial transaction.
Question: I rent my property on the Internet. I have heard that Internet sales are not taxable.
Answer: While there may be circumstances where sales of personal property via the Internet are not subject to tax, the Florida Statutes are very clear that all rentals of accommodations in the State of Florida are subject to applicable taxes.
Question: All of my rentals are handled by a property management company. What are my Tourist Development Tax responsibilities?
Answer: If your property management company is collecting and remitting tax for all of your property’s rentals under their Tourist Development Tax ID number, you are not required to file your own returns (although you may still need to register with the Florida Department of Revenue). However, if you personally collect rental revenue or any other form of compensation from any of your guests, you must collect and remit the taxes for those stays. Also, please be aware that, under Florida law, property owners are ultimately responsible for sales taxes if a property manager defaults or fails to collect or remit the tax.
Question: My property is used by friends and relatives at times during the year. Am I required to collect the Tourist Development Tax from them?
Answer: If you collect rent from them, or accept any other compensation in lieu of rent, you are required to collect and remit Tourist Development Tax based upon the rent paid or upon the fair market value of the compensation received. If compensation is not received nor expected from your friends or relatives, you should be sure to document that in your records in case of audit.
Question: My guests must pay a cleaning fee in addition to their rent. Is the cleaning fee taxable?
Answer: Anything that the guest is required to pay as a condition of occupying the property is subject to the Tourist Development Tax. Common examples include (but are not limited to) cleaning fees, reservation/processing fees, amenities fees, and nonrefundable pet deposits. The primary exception is refundable damage deposits. In addition, if you provide extra furnishings upon request for an additional fee (for example, cribs, rollaways, etc.), that charge is also subject to the Tourist Development Tax.
Question: I have rental property in other counties in Florida. How do I determine if my other rentals are subject to a Tourist Development Tax, and if so, who do I contact?
Answer: Most Florida counties do impose a Tourist Development Tax on transient rentals. The counties that self-administer the tax belong to the Florida Tourist Development Tax Association, Inc. (FTDTA). You may visit the directory on the FTDTA’s website at http://www.ftdta.org/regions.htm . If no contacts are listed for the county your property is in, please check with the Florida Department of Revenue as they collect the Tourist Development Tax for many of the smaller counties.
Question: I have been renting for some time now, but was not aware of my responsibility to collect and remit Tourist Development Tax. I’d like to begin complying, but I am afraid that I have a large tax liability.
Answer: Depending on the circumstances, there are several ways that a rental owner or manager making a voluntary disclosure of a tax liability can minimize their past amount due. Please be assured that we will work with you in order to bring your property into compliance.
Our goal is to assist rental owners and managers of properties in Walton County in fulfilling their statutory responsibilities through collector education and voluntary compliance. For additional information, please contact:
Walton County Clerk of Court
Tourist Development Tax
31 Coastal Centre Blvd., Suite 500
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Telephone: (850) 267-2040
Fax: (850) 267-1335
05-10-2012, 06:45 AM #15
South Walton TDC Annual Report 2011-2012
A lot of good info available online that never used to be available, or not easily available at least. I think a lot of questions can be answered by spending a little time on the partner's site - www.visitsouthwalton.org.
Our TDC has come a long way and there have been some growing pains. The current leadership may not do everything right but they are getting things done. The numbers speak for themselves. I hear people say that they should do more maintenance type stuff and less advertising and marketing. BP money may have tilted that some for a time but it has also freed up more money for care taking.
From the site:
Easy access to pristine beaches is one of the primary reasons visitors return to South Walton. On behalf of Walton County and the TDC’s lodging partners, the beach maintenance division cleans South Walton’s 26 miles of beach 365 days a year, which includes maintaining over 470 trash receptacles and 65 beach and bay accesses.
Specifically, the beach management and maintenance division completed the following items in 2010-11:
- Re-built and enhanced numerous beach accesses, including: Sea Breeze, Shell Seekers, Dothan, Santa Clara and Beachside Villas and Inlet Beach regional access, which was destroyed by a dune fire in May.
- Re-built and enhanced the Cessna Bay and Point Washington boat ramps.
- Built a new developer-funded Lupin beach access.
- Completed new storm water improvements and parking lot for the Bayou Arts Council facility located on Highway 393 North.
- Removed and repainted all way finding signs along 30A and collector roads to reflect new brand.
- Worked in cooperation with government agencies related to the Natural Resources Disaster Recovery Act (NRDA), designed to restore those areas affected by the BP Horizon incident in 2010.
- Partnered with the South Walton Community Council to promote and implement the July 5th Beach Cleanup, and spearheaded the International Coastal Cleanup in South Walton in September.
- South Walton Turtle Watch during the turtle nesting season for the summer of 2011, identified and protected a total of 35 sea turtle nests on Walton County beaches. Of these 33 of these nests were Loggerhead, one green and one possible Kemp’s.
05-10-2012, 06:46 AM #16
The mission of the South Walton County Tourist Development Council is to direct and manage activities that will strengthen the position of the South Walton brand in the tourism marketplace, in order to increase the tourism economy of Walton County. The TDC will manage and maintain our beaches as a primary attraction and serve as a responsible industry organization to take a leadership role in addressing issues that affect tourism and the quality of life in Walton County.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
05-10-2012, 07:34 AM #17
Good discussion! I'm thinking the focus needs to be on building the beaches, another storm or 2 and we won't have any left. Even a small storm will eat in to the dunes. No beaches means no tourism. WHere are we with getting sand on to the beaches?
05-10-2012, 09:50 AM #18
Found this on the above link, maybe Brad can give us an update.
South Walton’s beaches are unquestionably the destination’s most valuable asset. Though no major storms have occurred since 2005, it is imperative to maintain an ongoing nourishment plan to remain eligible for federal funding. In conjunction with consultant, Seahaven Consulting, the following items were accomplished in 2010-2011:
Continued to monitor changes to the Western Walton County Beach Restoration Project completed in 2007. Three years of post-construction monitoring reveals:
The project is performing very well with 89% of the volume of sand that was placed during construction remaining in the project limits.
The monitoring of the borrow site where the sand came from shows no negative impacts from removal of the offshore sand to the nearby shorelines.
The project has met or exceeded all criteria regarding aesthetics and habitat restoration.
Data collection was once again completed in June and July 2011 to be able to document the State of the Beach in the event of a future hurricane. Data collected includes aerial video, ground photography, and surveying of the Western Walton County Beach Restoration Project. To date, no post-storm monitoring has been necessary.
The Walton County Federal Shore Protection Project Feasibility Study continued in 2010-11 and is approaching a major milestone. The TDC successfully worked with Marlowe & Company, our federal lobbyists, to ensure that funding is available to continue the study.
In 2010-11, the TDC was able to utilize funding from three grants secured in 2004, 2006 and 2007 to cost-share beach management activities. This year, the TDC also requested additional grant funding for the ongoing monitoring of the Western Walton County Beach Restoration Project, and to assist in the cost sharing of the Federal Shore Protection Project Feasibility Study.
I take issue with the statement that "it is illegal to purchase land with TDC dollars...."
The statute, Florida Statute 125.0104, contains no provision stating that it is illegal to purchase land with TDC dollars.
In fact, there is an Attorney General Opinion from the State of Florida that specifically answers the question: May tourist development tax revenues be utilized to purchase beachfront land to be used as an additional public preservation and recreation area? The answer, plainly stated, is Yes!
As the opinion states: Tourist development tax revenues may be used to purchase beachfront land in Collier County if the county commission makes the requisite findings that this expenditure will promote tourism within the county or that the purchase of this parcel will improve, maintain, or restore the beach park. AGO 2001-42. http://www.myfloridalegal.com/ago.nsf/Opinions/6D347C95DA3AAE4A85256A70005249FD
Furthermore, the TDC is advisory, and the County Commission has the last say on how TDC funds are spent. In other words, if the County Commission finds that an expenditure promotes tourism, then the county can use TDC funds for that purpose, regardless of whether the TDC advises otherwise. AGO 92-34. http://www.myfloridalegal.com/ago.ns...2562A70055A98B
(See, Ops. Att'y Gen. Fla. 98-74 (1998), 97-48 (1997), 92-66 (1992), 87-16 (1987), concluding that a determination of whether a project is tourist related and furthers such primary purpose is a factual determination which must be made by the legislative and governing body of the county founded upon appropriate legislative findings and due consideration of the peculiar and prevailing local conditions and needs.)
Not only are there Attorney General Opinions on this topic, but there are many newspaper articles around the state that discuss how beach properties and accesses have been purchased using TDC dollars. For instance, Lee County (Ft. Myers) purchased a substantial beach front property last year using TDC tax funds. The property is now called Crescent Beach Family Park.
Florida Statute 125.0104 can be viewed at: http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/filest..._0125.0104.HTM
The statutory language, paired with the legal interpretation of Florida's Attorney General, allows for land purchases and capital expenditures as long as the County Commission can make the finding that the expenditure promotes tourism within the county. TDC funds are being used to purchase lands all over Florida. Those lands are not "owned" by the TDC, but are rather owned by the County that made the purchase using the TDC funds. Obviously, TDC funds should not be a "grab bag" or a "go to" fund for all tourist-related needs (as the county has separate obligations to the citizens as well), but if a careful consideration is made that the TDC funds are appropriate for an expenditure, then the funds can be used.
Last edited by Grayton Girl; 05-10-2012 at 10:41 AM. Reason: font correction & link enabled & added language
05-10-2012, 11:00 AM #20
The TDC in Walton should be much smaller, no advertising, have a great website, and welcome and guide the guests who are here. TDC in Okaloosa should be disbanded; lots of rats running for cover over there. Okaloosa is trying their best to push that fiasco under the rug.
People have been coming here long before the TDC was around. If the TDC in Walton or Okaloosa was disbanded, people would still come down in droves. It's not about the TDC, it is, and always has been about the beaches, the fishing, the related sports, and the R&R.
To answer the question, NO, we don't need a TDC.The brave may not live forever, but the cautious never live at all.
05-10-2012, 11:02 AM #21
I think the TDC should be dissolved. I talk to people all the time who come here on vacation and most of them don't know what county they are in and couldn't care less. 'The Beaches of South Walton' is an ego trip for the political insiders. The area sells itself. The TDC had nothing to do with the increase in business. When we first started coming here we liked south Walton county because the greedy developers had not yet ruined the coast with condos as far as the eye could see. But then the developers took over.
05-10-2012, 12:07 PM #22
On a different but somewhat related subject, has there been any credible survey done lately on traffic density on 30a (not a developers survey - totally disreputable)? I can't believe that this tiny, 2 lane country road wouldn't be found to be way beyond its legal capacity. Anyone who has to use this road, especially during tourist season, couldn't come to any other conclusion.
Last edited by tsutcli; 05-10-2012 at 12:09 PM.BEACH LOCAL
I'll pass that info along. That's not the way it was explained to me.
05-10-2012, 01:18 PM #26
i talk to a lot of visitors, both people I know or complete strangers (I am a little chatty). Anyway, they always tell me the following reasons they chose this area:
1. Made vacation plans with family members who vacation here
2. Made vacation plans with friends who vacation here
3. Grew up in the southern states and have ben visiting the panhandle since they were small, sometimes generations visiting the area.
4. In the case of spring break, don't want to be the only family left behind in a zip code/school group when they all come here- oh the horrors! the kids would be ostracized.
5. Booked a stay in Destin or PCB, went for a sightseeing drive, and found 30A.
6. Southern Living reader. If Southern Living says to go somewhere, well then you better go there. Garden & Gun rapidly gaining on them with the young, hip, and wealthy group.
Most really all go back to word of mouth. Every single friend of ours that vacations here now, does so because we "introduced" them to the area years ago, and now they bring other people, and so on and so on. Making sure the visitors experiences WHILE THEY ARE HERE is the most important function of the TDC- because our visitors ARE the marketing tool.
I would really like to see figures of how many people were burning up the flight paths coming here from places like Chicago, DC, etc. Would that marketing money have been better spent on more events to get larger numbers our large regional markets? Why do we have to worry about getting visitors from big cities outside of the south?
05-10-2012, 01:31 PM #27
I see that the Daily News is doing a survey. So far the responders favor getting rid of the Okaloosa TDC. If there were no TDC, bed tax money could be put aside for the next hurricane. But a lot of people want to waste it now while it's hot.
"Waste it now while it's hot." That is the perfect motto for our current TDC. GraytonGirl had a great concept. Using TDC money (which, apparently, is "overflowing") to purchase and preserve endangered beachfront property. Eastern Lake Inlet comes to mind. There have been overtures from the owners of this property, affecting the inlet, to sell it to the county. This has been going on for years. The county doesn't seem to have the money, but The TDC apparently does. Four million dollars to preserve the enjoyment of one of our greatest natural treasures for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, seems a little more important than whether the TDC can erect a "discovery center" for people who have already found the beaches of South Walton.My mind tends to wander... but fortunately, it's so weak, it doesn't get very far...
I get the impression that you might be on the TDC board or perhaps a TDC employee. If that is so, I am disappointed that you have not received appropriate counsel about how TDC funds can be spent.
While I do not purport to be an expert, the information I provided was gleaned from a 2-hour research session on the internet. I am tired of hearing that "the TDC is prohibited by statute from doing X or Y" or that it would be "illegal" to use TDC funds in one way or another.
I looked up the statute, and I read it, then I looked up Attorney General Opinions, which are legal opinions given to elected or appointed officials. I read a number of AG Opinions that had to do with TDC expenditures all over the state. What I am reading convinces me that TDC funds can be spent on land, capital improvements, etc. as long as the county commission, which is the governing body of the county, makes a factual finding based on evidence and the peculiar conditions and needs of the area, that the spending of the funds will promote tourism.
I agree with JDarg that the TDC would be well-served by making sure that once visitors have arrived, they have a wonderful and safe time at the beach. Acquiring additional beach accesses, improving the bike path for safety, providing additional security for our busiest times - all of these would serve to enhance the visitor experience for those who come to our area. We want them to leave happy, so they will tell their friends and loved ones about their wonderful experiences in Sowal. The fact that these same desires (for instance, beach access, bike path safety, additional security) would also serve to improve the lives of those of us who live here, does not make these goals or projects somehow "unavailable" for TDC funds.
Whether it's the Eastern Lake inlet or some other sites, I've always wondered why the County didn't seem to be active in trying to increase access points. Improving existing accesses and adding parking to existing accesses is good, but that's not the same as actually increasing access land.
Public companies have buyback programs that they use to increase the value of their own stock. This would be a similar concept -- buying land to increase the public value of the beach. Boulder Colorado had a pretty extensive greenspace development program where the county actively rezoned and actively purchased new greenspace for public use. When I left there 20 years ago it had one of the greatest public park systems in the country and a really great quality of life factor. Hi tech companies as well as tourists were flocking to Boulder because of that quality of life factor.
05-10-2012, 09:35 PM #31
By all means let's constantly evaluate and adapt, but I have to say whenever I hear people say we don't need to advertise I think they are either ignorant, or want fewer visitors.
Sure the internet is a great resource and this site alone is probably responsible for 1/2 the tourists but competition is fierce out there. Destinations have gotten smart and if you don't keep up you'll lose out to a thousand other beach destinations. The SWTDC marketing is light years ahead of where it was even a couple of years ago. The current staff (Dawn Moliterno has done an amazing job) and LKM agency has brought us out of the stone age. Their website, while not great is a ton better than it was (useless).
Having said that, there are ways to do it a lot cheaper. Getting travel articles written is practically free and brings in tons of folks and reinforces and reminds people who already have been here. Don't underestimate the fact that kids are now bringing their kids here - but you still have to stay on em and woo em. But look at all the events we have here now!!! Too many to keep up with!
Youtube!!??!! Helllooooo??! This video has over 22,000 views - it ain't rocket science people - send your bed tax money to SoWal website---
05-11-2012, 07:23 AM #32
I do believe having a TDC and a visitor's center is important. The BP money and the commissioner currently heading the advisory council have them in the public (critical) eye more. I see that they are making an effort to be more transparent and businesslike. ALthough the visitor center location idea was talked about last year and not hidden like some people try to claim, any smart developer will tell you to go to the neighbors first and include them in the process. In this case the neighbors is all of South Walton. First thing you do is bring forestry, SWCC, and other interested parties to the table and ask them for guidance. This is PR 101.
05-11-2012, 07:34 AM #33
If somebody simply stops to use the bathroom and sees a rip tide chart on the bathroom wall and later survives a rip tide because of it that is huge!
But also they might learn of something like YOLO or Eden Gardens or Biophilia Center that makes them tell a friend, or book a wedding, or book a return trip and on and on. New customers cost ten times more to recruit than retention of an existing one. And I definitely think we could snag new visitors traveling between panama city and destin...
Maybe have a small visitor's center somewhere on 98 and a main one on 331.
05-11-2012, 08:48 AM #34
The issue with the current TDC space being maxed out becomes irrelevant when you believe the TDC should be smaller. Why it was constructed over a retention pond, I will never know. But the building can't be that bad if the TDC was going to give it to the Division of Forestry. I would support a very small TDC. When we moved from Columbus, Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky, we had never heard of the Destin/South Walton area. However, we quickly found out that almost the entire east end of Louisville headed there every spring break. Just about everyone I've spoken to regarding how they first came here to visit has told me they heard about our area from a friend, etc. I agree with JDarg about the beach access limitations. Just think if every condo and house that was constructed during the "flip" craziness was filled to capacity - can you imagine what 30a traffic would look like?
05-11-2012, 11:19 AM #35
05-12-2012, 09:53 AM #36
Since we have so many vacant dwellings in Walton county, perhaps the TDC needs to concentrate on bringing in permanent residents.
05-12-2012, 10:10 AM #37
- Join Date
- Dec 2004
- Bluewater Bay, FL
Population growth is strong in Walton County- some of the fastest in the Southeast. But a lot of those folks that do buy are aiming for the sub-$250K purchase or alternately renting, not getting the $500K 'entry level' home south of 30-A that seems to be rather overbuilt for the area.
05-12-2012, 01:20 PM #38
However, if you're ever going to get to develop a more robust year-round economy, I think you need to draw from a wider audience than the South. You can argue about the most effective way to do that and whether what the TDC is doing is effective for that, but I don't think trying to expand the the market outside of the South is a bad idea.
06-21-2012, 06:44 AM #40
- Join Date
- Jan 2006
- Backatown Seagrove
In regard to the original post title, I say "no"! Good lord, it looked like July 4th at Seaside last night with people on top of people. I know heads in beds are good, but there has to be a tipping point where crowds make this place unattractive. I don't see a need to advertise, advertise, advertise...Maybe run advertising campaigns every other year in select media. In off years devote funds to improving beach access, etc. Or just disband the TDC-I'm sure we would all survive just fine.
06-21-2012, 07:42 AM #41
We need to play catch-up with our tourist infrastructure very soon. It seems the TDC has become mostly a marketing/PR firm, and while it is great that so many people are coming here (mostly not because of the TDC efforts, I suspect, or mayeb 50/50 because i am feeling generous this morning), we are currently at capacity at the beach accesses- which is THE reason people come to South Walton. There needs to be a shift in philosophy- shouldn't we be caring just as much about the visitor AFTER they get here as we care when spending all that marketing money to GET them here?
I am all about the idea of rolling the TDC in with the Chamber- a little Google research showed that many (maybe the majority) of cities operate this way. I have not heard one valid reason why this cannot happen.
*Find the way to improve the beach accesses- buy the land, build the parking, walkways, restrooms, lifeguard stands, beach education info stands, picnic areas. I know there is a way that this can be done.
*Improve the 30A bike path (death path)- especially decent bridges across Western Lake. Keep it maintained and functional. There is going to be a really ugly accident on one of those Western Lake bridges very soon.
*Help manage heavy visitor weeks (like spring break) better- use TDC funds to pay for extra security or whatever it takes. Have the TDC take the lead in working with the different resort communities on ways to manage the springbreakers- like help them get the plan in place before they arrive.
*Have more public recreation facilities- not every visitor stays in a place with a pool and tennis courts. Help fund a public pool South Walton- it would be used by visitors, and used for training for our lifeguards. It would be filled with snowbirds in the winter, swim meets, and tourists when the flags are red and they can't get in the water.
I have more ideas about some useful functions of the TDC- but have to get moving this morning-
06-21-2012, 09:00 AM #42
The reality is that we need a Tourism Infrastructure Council. Since we live in the internet world most already have creative websites to find renters. Marketing will be the least of our worries over the next few years as the lack of infrastucture to support the numbers of people already here will quickly turn into a negative association with the 30A area to vacation safely and conveniently. The mission of the TDC needs to change now before we start having more negative feedback from visitors. Since infrastructure issues are not as glamorous as marketing a paradise this is going to be a big problem to convince enough people that we need to change our ways before it is too late. How many more tragic events do we need before we wake up and smell the urgency?
06-21-2012, 10:31 AM #43
I was thinking that a new Western Lake pedestrian and bike bridge named after Mr. Modica would have been a better thing for Gaetz to have pushed through the legislature than the 30a name change.Basically, I'm just passing through on my way to Australia.
06-21-2012, 10:37 AM #44
It is really nice to see the positive and visionary posts here regarding our major industry, tourism. I would submit that much of the bed tax money could be put in a trust fund to be accessed for use to build beach accesses where possible, visitor information kiosks, manned by our youth looking for summer jobs and funds to be used for beach restoration after tropical storms and hurricanes. I see no shortage of tourists on the beach. The bed tax money can be put to better use than it now is. The money could also be used for better enforcement of beach regulations in a curtious manner.I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability. Ron Hart
06-21-2012, 10:58 AM #45
The immediate - cease all activity on this Discovery Center in any way, shape, or form until the after the BCC election. No discussion of the building until the actual functions of the TDC are examined - working on this building is putting the cart before the horse. There will be 2 new commissioners for sure after the election, maybe 3- why do we want possibly half of the BCC making these decisions when it is possible that 3 won't be around?
06-21-2012, 11:13 AM #46
Last edited by Beach Bimmer; 06-21-2012 at 12:56 PM.
06-21-2012, 12:00 PM #47
How do we get our thoughts into the right hands? I realize that each of us need to make more effort to make phone calls and attend meetings but many of us are just trying to raise a family and make a living. Should we start an online petition? The money that the TDC has access to is going to get spent and probably fairly quickly if there is a sense of growing support against new buildings and less marketing and more support for infrastructure (parking, beach access, lifeguards, lifeguard stations, lifeguard equipment, beach improvements, picnic areas, 30A improvements, bike path improvements and the list goes on and on). I am certain that the money could be better in a way that will improve the tourist's quality of vacation which will translate to a very successful marketing strategy.
06-21-2012, 03:14 PM #48
06-21-2012, 04:35 PM #49
06-21-2012, 04:38 PM #50
Never mind. Not excellent. Requested meeting date June 26th, 9 am, in DEFUNIAK.