Third-Cent Question

Fat on BP penance money last year, the Pensacola area saw great tourism numbers. With the extra funds inflating tourism-marketing coffers to a level toping $5 million, Visit Pensacola—the marketing arm of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce—was able to better advertise the area.

Now, area hoteliers are wanting to keep the party rolling. To that end, Chamber officials visited the Escambia County Commission last week to request the board up its contribution so that marketing efforts may continue at the level the tourism community has grown accustomed to.

“So, things are really continuing to look very good—everything is indicating that we’re going to have another really good year,” Terry Scruggs, who heads up Visit Pensacola, told the board. “All that’s left is the last piece of the puzzle, it’s the money, and that’s in your hands.”

What Scruggs was requesting was the entire first three cents of the 4-cent bed tax. Each cent generates more than $1.5 million annually. Although allocating the third cent to tourism marketing would keep those efforts at post-BP levels, it would also mean that the county would have to yank its funding from the Pensacola Civic Center (which currently gets that third cent).

Commissioners decided to hold off on diving into the matter until their next meeting, or perhaps the one after that. The body will most likely decide in July whether or not to throw more money at tourism marketing.

Escambia County Administrator Randy Oliver said Monday that it may not be as simple as robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“Here’s gonna be the thing with the civic center,” Oliver explained, “they’ve made contractual commitments now for certain things.”

In order to accommodate the tourism community, the administrator said the commissioners would either need to cut it out of the budget they’ve already trimmed more than $9 million from, or generate additional revenues. One way to accomplish the latter would be to ad a fifth cent to the 4-cent bed tax.