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The Jacksonville Grand Prix of the Seas will return to town June 3-5, with more spectator options this year. Visit Jacksonville’s logo appears on one of the boats that competes in powerboat races around the world.

More room nights, higher rates bump Duval County hotel revenue up nearly 15 percent in last quarter

By Max Marbut, Staff Writer

It’s a great time to be in the hotel business in Duval County.

So great that the revenue from the 6 percent hospitality tax collected on hotel bills from October-December totaled $1.83 million, a 14.5 percent increase over the same period in 2015.

That’s because more rooms were booked at a higher average daily rate per room than in late 2015, according to a report provided Thursday to the Duval County Tourist Development Council.

The biggest gain was in December, when bed tax revenue was up 41 percent compared to the previous year, more than likely due to business from tourists who attended the TaxSlayer Bowl, said Assistant City Council Auditor Kyle Billy.

Tax revenue in December alone was more than $699,000, he added.

The tourism council administers 2 percent of the 6 percent tax to fund Visit Jacksonville, the convention and visitors bureau for Jacksonville and the Beaches, to provide grants to attract convention and event business.

The remaining 4 percent is used for debt service and maintenance of the city’s sports and entertainment facilities.

The council approved a $20,000 grant for an event that will in June mark its fourth year in Jacksonville — the Grand Prix of the Seas that brings powerboat teams and spectators to the city for a day of racing in the St. Johns River near Memorial Park.

“It has been a tremendous success for Jacksonville,” said Dave Herrell, director of the sports and entertainment office. “And it continues to grow every year.”

In addition to the tourism grant, the city supports the event with a $10,000 grant from sports and entertainment.

The marketing value of the Jacksonville event being featured on Powerboat P1’s international television broadcasts is estimated at about $500,000, with 40 percent of the exposure in the U.S., 12 percent in the United Kingdom (where the race series began) and the remainder in more than 100 countries, Herrell said.

One of the boats travels around the world and competes displaying Visit Jacksonville’s logo, which adds another $500,000 in marketing value at 30 international races and on global television, he said.

The race festival and a viewing area will again be set up in the park. Talks are underway with the St. Johns River Taxi and organizers of a private pleasure craft flotilla to create a floating spectator experience.

Also approved were grants totaling $13,940 for four conventions projected to generate more than 4,000 room nights.

• The Florida Reining Horse Association was awarded $2,265, based on 755 room nights at hotels in West Jacksonville and RV hookups at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.

• The Fraternal Order of Police Florida Lodge received $1,200 for its Oct. 10-14 meeting at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront.

• A $2,975 grant for 595 room nights was approved for the American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference, July 13-16, also at the Hyatt.

• The largest grant was $7,500 for the ECRM Select Cosmetics Fragrance & Bath convention Jan. 13-18, which is expected to represent nearly 2,600 room nights booked by 600 attendees.

The cosmetics convention was held in Jacksonville in 2016 but the other three meetings are new groups for local hoteliers, said Monica Smith, Visit Jacksonville vice president of sales and service.

In other business, the board is finalizing a request for proposals for the city’s convention marketing contract.

It will be finished by early March to allow time to advertise the bid request and evaluate responses.

The current five-year contract with Visit Jacksonville expires Sept. 30.

mmarbut@jaxdailyrecord.com

(904) 356-2466

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