By Noelle H. Lowery
It is no secret that Marco Island is a big draw for tourists. What’s not to like? Sunshine and breathtaking sunsets, white sand beaches, fishing, shopping, restaurants and so much more.
What kind of economic footprint do these tourists leave behind, though? Well, the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce has invitedJack Wert, executive director of the Paradise Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, to hold a town hall meeting for Marco residents to give them the facts. It will be held Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 6 PM in the Rose History Auditorium on the grounds of the Marco Island Historical Museum.
“We will recap 2013 from a visitor statistics point of view,” explains Wert. “I will cite the benefits of tourism to Marco Island and the impact of visitors spending on Marco area businesses.”
To be sure, the CVB works hard to promote Marco Island as a major destination for the Paradise Coast, which includes all of Collier County from Naples through the Everglades. “Marco Island is a part of every TV spot, print ad and social media campaign that we run in northern markets the first two calendar quarters and in the major Florida feeder markets to our area in the spring, summer and fall timer periods. Marco Island resort properties participate with the CVB in co-op marketing campaigns in both paid advertising and digital marketing efforts,” says Wert.
Accordingly, the economic impact is significant: “Marco Island is an integral part of the destination marketing messaging that the CVB delivers for all of Collier County,” Wert notes. “Every marketing message includes Marco Island…Marco residents benefit from the visitors that the marketing attracts to the area from direct expenditures in Marco businesses and tax savings of nearly $700 per year (per resident).”
In fact, Marco Island contributes about 25 percent of the annual total tourist tax revenue in Collier County. When the totals are in for December, the total tourist tax revenue for Collier County will be more than $16 million in 2013, Wert estimates. Marco Island’s portion of that will be well over $4 million. Through November, tourist tax collections from Marco totaled nearly $3.8 million.
One crucial component of these collections — for the entire county — comes from meetings and conferences, according to Wert. “Meetings and conferences are an important part of the attributes of Collier County and Marco Island in particular,” he explains. “The Marco Island Marriott is our largest group meeting hotel, offering a wide variety of amenities to meeting attendees. The Marco beaches offer some excellent venues for weddings, beach dinner events and sunset celebrations.”
That is why the CVB supports the proposed expansion of the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort and Spa. The project would include:
• reconfiguring the resort’s existing seven rooms of 44,721 square feet of meeting space to 14 rooms of meeting space totaling between 75,000-80,000 square feet;
• increasing the ceiling heights in the meeting space from 10 feet to 22 feet;
• a new 83-guest room tower with rooftop guest pool;
• a new rooftop restaurant with views of the open Gulf of Mexico;
• a new 20,000-square-foot indoor recreation center designed with families in mind and featuring activities such as virtual golf and bowling, as well as indoor laser tag; and
• a new single-level parking deck which will replace the existing tennis courts and a portion of the current parking lot and will bring the total number of spaces at the Marriott to 1,400.
“It will greatly benefit the island businesses,” says Wert. “There are a number of groups that we cannot bid on to bring their meetings to Marco Island due to space and date limitations. The added space for meetings and additional rooms will give us a better chance of attracting new group meetings, more attendees and more spending in island businesses.”
So what is on the horizon for the tourism business in 2014?
“Collier in general has enjoyed growth in visitors, spending and tourist tax revenue every month in 2013,” Wert surmises. “The advanced reservations reported from the Marco Island hoteliers and from our international marketing teams indicates that record growth will continue in 2014.”