The busy season for Florida tourism is right around the corner, and with the red tide still lurking in the water, Collier County is holding off its “Return to Paradise” campaign until the coast is clear.
“Plan in place, ready to roll when we have the first signs of a couple strong days, weeks of no red tide," Ed Caum said, with the Collier County Convention and Visitors Bureau," then we can hit that plan."
September is usually the slowest month of the year for tourism in Collier County and the larger SWFL region. However, red tide and blue-green algae have dissuaded tourists in large numbers from visiting SWFL for nearly the entire year.
The revenue from tourist is normally allocated to support marketing expenditures as Collier County collects 5 percent tax on all short-term vacation stays. Hurricane Irma negatively impacted the county's collection last year. Other environmental problems are crippling it this year.
Red tide has destroyed marine life in Collier County coastal waters, with dead animals being washed ashore in large numbers. There is fear for humans of SWFL to enter the waters.
Blue-green algae has been just as terrible, with its disgusting stench that permeates in the areas where it is blooming. Blue-green algae can make breathing more difficult, a problem for people with and without asthma.
The county with the vision statement , "we strive to be the best community in America to live, work, and play," is asking for funds to help with its marketing campaigning.
“We are making a request to county commissioners at their next meeting for a quarter of a million dollars out of the emergency reserve fund to tackle marketing up north,” Caum said.
Collier County requested a $70,000 grant from Visit Florida. If they are given that money, Caum said it will be used for digital and social media targeted marketing.
The hope is for tourists from the northern states and Canada to still book trips to the Gulf Coast.
“We have seen a drop of this year in visitation, 4.2 percent over August last year,” Caum said. The drop is mostly from in-state visitors.
Captains, beach rentals, restaurants and merchants are all being hit the hardest.
“We have 38,000 people that work in our industry here in Collier County so let’s take care of those 38,000 people," Caum said. "They are us, they are our neighbors."
The county does weekly testing for red tide. It posts updates daily, which is accessible on paradisecoast.com .