Pinellas tourism agency to launch new marketing campaign

Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Pinellas County's tourism agency, will attempt to become a national brand in 2016.

Tourism Director David Downing unveiled the strategy at a marketing event Tuesday afternoon. 

Rather than the occasional one-time advertisement in a national publication, Downing described a campaign that will be "sustained throughout the United States" for several months. The outlets include Pandora Internet radio, NPR, and AT&T cable systems.

The intent is to make the area more recognizable by a national audience. It builds on yet another record-setting year for Pinellas County tourism, which as an industry employs more than 90,000 people. 

By the end of fiscal year 2015, the county had collected more than $39 million dollars in bed taxes, which is a 5 percent sales tax imposed on short term accommodations. That was a more than 12 percent increase in bed tax collections compared to 2014. And 2014's collections were up a similar amount compared to 2013.

Pinellas County's bed tax increases from 5% to 6% on January 1st. If sales remain constant in 2016 compared to this year, bed tax collections will approach $47 million. 

The county's Tourism Development Council recently decided to allocate 40% of the revenue stream to brick-and-mortar projects such as stadiums, aquariums and museums and 60 percent to marketing.