Maple resigns from tourism council

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By Ada Lang

An aggressive marketing plan for the upcoming year is in the works, in an effort to bump up the number of visitors to Levy County, as well as, raise revenues to encourage even more to spend a few nights on the “Nature Coast.”

Cedar Key boating and eco-tour guide Doug Maple resigned from his position on the Tourist Development Council, due to conflicts with his work schedule. Nominations will be considered for a replacement to his seat at the next meeting.

The position once held by Teal Pomeroy, Chiefland mayor, was filled by Chiefland Commissioner Teresa Barron at the same meeting on Sept. 22. 

The 2011-2012 fiscal year budget was approved. The $337,535 tourism budget was approved on Sept. 19 by the Levy County Board of Commissioners.

Discussion of the lower sales tax revenues during the hot summer months brought a round of comments from members. The highest month’s receipts for 2011 was $18,910.28 in April, however, July only netted the TDC $12,231.70. 

Helen Ciallella, who owns B’s Marina and Campground, in Yankeetown, noted that it has been slow at her campground, as well as other private and state owned facilities.

Stanley Bair, of the Island Hotel in Cedar Key, said, “It’s been a dismal month.”

Information requests about tourism in the county are slightly down, too. Visit Florida and National Geographic have been the two top producers so far this year, compared to Visit Florida and Southern Living during 2010.  

Website activity was off slightly in September, compared to August, but the consensus was that it is probably attributed to the end of summer and school starting back and activity is expected to pick up in the fall.

Work with Visit Florida’s Rural Tourism Marketing Co-op Program is on-going and a meeting in Bronson is scheduled in mid-October. Carol McQueen, executive director of the Levy County Visitors Bureau, will be taking visitor survey’s around the county before that meeting. 

Feedback from the surveys will be incorporated into the marketing plan that is being developed. 

Instead of advertising money being granted directly to tourism agencies in the county this year, the TDC plans to implement “an aggressive marketing plan,” explained McQueen. 

About $80,000 is budgeted to promote tourism in Levy County and will include collateral materials (DVD, rack card, map printing and distribution), print and website advertising, radio and TV advertisements in the Sarasota, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and Atlanta markets, trade shows and other public relations, including the Visitors Bureau’s website, hosting writer and journalist orientation tours and other state and regional marketing.